Tall order at the Sacramento Zoo: Mother giraffe expecting

A six feet tall, 150-pound baby is due in November or December in Land Park.

The Sacramento Zoo made the happy announcement Wednesday that Shani, a Masai giraffe, is pregnant. The father is Chifu, the zoo’s only male giraffe.

“The Zoo is overjoyed that Shani is pregnant,” said Zoo Director Mary Healy. “The last time there was a giraffe birth at the Sacramento Zoo was in the 1980s.”

Healy said that Shani and Chifu were brought to the zoo with the hope that they would become the nucleus of a new herd to support the genetic diversity of the North American Masai giraffe population.

The Masai giraffe is the largest giraffe subspecies, found in the wild of southern Kenya and Tanzania. The zoo also has three smaller, female Reticulated giraffes.

The zoo completed renovations on the giraffe exhibit in 2010. The renovated enclosure includes a heated barn that is fully equipped for the birthing of giraffe calves.

Gestation is 14-to-15 months. Within minutes of birth, the calf is able to stand.

Fewer than 100 Masai giraffes are in Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited institutions. The Sacramento Zoo works with Wild Nature Institute, which studies the Masai giraffe in Africa.

The study, which includes more than 1,500 of the animals, will allow researchers to follow the movement of the giraffes and reproduction habits in the wild in order to learn where and why their numbers are declining.