As many of you may remember, last July we were astonished to find our adult female Ring-tailed lemur “Cairrean” giving birth out on the exhibit in the middle of the afternoon. Most of our primate babies are born overnight, inside the nighthouse (with the exception of a few species that are documented to have more of a tendency to give birth during the day, like Pied tamarins and Patas monkeys.) Well, she’s done it again! Nine months after little “Howie” made his appearance into the world, Cairrean went into labor out in the lemur yard and produced another infant at 7 PM on April 11th. Keepers Amy and Mary were bringing the group inside at the end of the day as usual and wondered why Cairrean wouldn’t come in, and they went outside to look and discovered right away what the issue was – a brand new baby that she was still cleaning off. The Keepers had to wait until she was finished making sure the baby was properly washed and groomed before she brought it inside, clinging to mama’s belly like a ring-tailed tick.
Photo by Dale Martin
Despite the surprise of finding her giving birth while the sun was still out yet again, we did surmise that she was pregnant prior to the happy event. Primate Keepers weigh their animals monthly, and Cairrean is typically a very svelte 2.5kg (about 5.5 pounds.) However, in the past few months she had gained a bit of weight and was 2.8kg (a little over 6 pounds) a couple of weeks prior to the birth. But, since her last baby was born in July, we really didn’t expect the next one to arrive as early as April! Our animals always have a way of making things interesting for us.
We are all quite delighted with the appearance of this new little one, as Howie very much needs a playmate these days. He has been trying to wrestle with mom and dad lately and they are not all that enthused about his hijinks, particularly when he hangs off their tails and swings like a trapeze artist. Very soon, the new infant will grow up to the size where big brother can enjoy his company and Howie will have someone equally interested in the type of rough-and-tumble play that young primates typically engage in.
Photo by Dale Martin
For now, however, the new baby is happily ensconced in mama’s lap, where the food supply is plentiful and maternal affection is infinitely available. You can visit our expanding lemur family at the Wortham World of Primates, in the heart of the Zoo.
Here is an exciting account of the giraffe birth from Ashley Roth of our hoofed stock team.
“Just before 5:00 p.m. on Saturday July 14, 2012 Tyra, our 14 year old female giraffe went into labor. A few short hours later, Tyra successfully gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He was standing on his own about 45 minutes after he was born. The calf weighs 163 pounds and stands about 75.5 inches tall (which is 6ft 3 inches). Though this is calf number seven for Tyra, it is the first calf for our 5 year old male, Mtembei. Mom and calf spent some time off exhibit for the first couple days to allow them time to bond. They have now been introduced to the rest of the giraffe herd and ostriches and will continue to be on exhibit daily.
Prior to the birth, keepers were keeping a close eye on Tyra, knowing that the giraffe gestation period is about 14 months. The keepers knew Tyra could give birth from the second week of July until the beginning of August. Monitoring her udder development was significant in determining how close she was to her due date. The birth went very smoothly. Tyra began showing signs of labor early in the afternoon and was separated into a holding yard to allow her privacy as well as a safe environment for the calf. Keepers were nearby to monitor her throughout her labor, but were confident that Tyra would do well, as she always has in the past.
As soon as Tyra gave birth, she began grooming her calf periodically while he was lying down. As soon as the calf was on his feet, Tyra was more attentive to cleaning him off. The rest of the giraffe herd stood by, watching everything from the exhibit side of the fence. Mtembei in particular seemed observant while the calf made his attempts to stand on his own. The entire hoofed stock team is delighted to have this new addition to the giraffe herd and look forward to watching him grow. ”
We are proud to announce the birth of a male Masai giraffe. Mom Tyra delivered the healthy male calf shortly before 8 p.m. on July 14. The calf weighs 73 kilos, about 160 pounds and is over 74 inches tall. He’s a strong healthy baby!
Name this baby!
We now need to decide on a name for the little guy. Vote for your favorite name below to help us choose:
I had the honor of capturing baby giraffe Asali’s birth on film last week for the Houston Zoo’s YouTube Channel. On a busy Friday afternoon in the spring sunshine, Tyra the giraffe began giving birth in the middle of the field in full view of an increasingly large crowd of public. Not long after I arrived, out of breath, having racewalked across the zoo with camera in hand, the keeper staff decided Tyra might appreciate a little privacy. They opened up the gate to the back and waved a green plastic buoy atop a tall bamboo pole. The giraffes notice this as a “come over here if you like” signal. Tyra thought this was a great idea and moseyed into the private back yard, followed by moans of many disappointed guests. For those of you who thought you might have missed the birth, here it is in high definition:
Myself and a few other chosen staff were allowed to follow keepers and vets behind the scenes. It’s not safe to stand in the yard with the giraffes – although they’re completely gentle, there’s always a risk of one accidentally crushing your foot with a misplaced hoof – so we watched and I filmed from behind a wall. Tyra slowly paced around the yard, looking around and gazing at us with her big dark eyes as if to reassure us that she had this completely under control. She stopped periodically for contractions, and would often point her back end at us the contractions came – she knew what we were there to monitor.
We watched and I filmed as giraffe Asali was born
As we watched the baby’s nose, tongue, and then the entire head emerged. Unlike a human birth, the head is not the first to come out, but only after the front feet have appeared. After a brief delay the shoulders came after, and then it was just a minute more before the whole baby came sliding out. Since giraffe moms give birth standing up, it’s a rude awakening into life as baby falls to the ground.
The most remarkable thing about the whole process was how silent it was. There were no outcries of pain, beeps of fetal monitors or hurried bustle of nursing staff around a maternity ward. Zoo veterinarians kept a vigilant eye, ready for any intervention needed, and we all waited holding our breath while Tyra calmly and quietly brought Asali into the world.