By Susie Ngo, June 22 2020—
Toronto Zoo’s endangered Masai giraffes Mstari and Kiko welcomed their first calf into the world early on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
Nicknamed “Baby Long Legs”, the healthy calf is under careful watch by zoo staff. Its birth was a result of a cooperative breeding program, the AZA Masai giraffe Species Survival Plan. The program has tracked Mstari’s reproductive cycles for the past three years. Mstari’s pregnancy was confirmed in late February of 2019.
Masai giraffes have an average gestation period of of 457 days, making it difficult for the iconic species to maintain their natural numbers in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that the Masai giraffe was now considered an officially endangered species on July 11, 2019.
Over the past three decades, Masai giraffe populations have dwindled by nearly 50% due to habitat loss and poaching. “The primary threat to giraffes is habitat loss as a result of the expanding human population,” the Toronto Zoo said in a statement, “Within national parks, poaching is a serious threat.” Parts of the giraffe, ranging from tail hairs to bone marrow and brains, are in high demand due to the popular belief that they are natural medicines for HIV and AIDS.
The birth of a new giraffe is great news for wildlife conservationists and signals a step forward in the global effort to protect and preserve endangered fauna. Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo, said in a statement that the “birth is an important contribution to a genetically healthy Masai giraffe population…Masai giraffes are under increasing pressure due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. It is important to educate the public on their plight in the wild and do everything we can to prevent the threats they face and halt declining populations.”
In honour of the birth of it’s new calf, the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy has launched a new campaign called “Room to Grow” to raise money and awareness to support the newly minted giraffe family. It aims to raise $70,000 for increasing available space, allowing better access to the giraffes by staff and vets, and improving educational opportunities.
On the Bright Side is a regular column by Gauntlet volunteers. Covering feel-good news, information and opinions from around the world, On the Bright Side is a little piece of positivity in a wild world. To submit, contact the column editor, volunteer coordinator Susie Ngo.