Special to 1808Delaware

There’s even more cause for celebration in the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Heart of Africa region, where a female Masai giraffe calf was born on Wednesday, December 9, at 11:06 AM. This is the third giraffe calf to be born at the Columbus Zoo this year, marking an important achievement for the conservation of this endangered species.

The Animal Care team, who was on 24-hour birth watch and observed the birth through a camera in the giraffe barn, reports that the calf born to 9-year-old mother, Digi, appears to be strong and alert. The calf was already fully standing and nursing shortly after birth. The care team was also delighted to observe the calf testing out her little “bunny hopping” and “running” (or “zoomies”) skills later that day.

Digi was born at the Louisville Zoo and arrived at the Columbus Zoo from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 2018. This is the second calf for Digi, who previously gave birth to a female calf named Zoey

at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016. The father of all three calves born at the Columbus Zoo this year is 10-year-old Enzi, who arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2013 after first being at The Wilds and the Toledo Zoo, where he was born. Twenty-three giraffes have been born at the Columbus Zoo over the course of its history.

The pairings of Enzi with females, Digi, Jana and Zuri, were recommended by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care.

Digi’s calf’s arrival follows the welcoming of Zuri’s male calf on June 28 and Jana’s female calf on August 26. Both calves made their public debut this summer and continue to be doing well. This week, the calves also officially received their names!

Zuri’s calf was given the name “Ralph” from long-time Zoo supporter Johanna DeStefano, who is honoring the life of her deceased husband who provided her with a lifetime of inspiration and support. As a former professor of sociolinguistics the meaning of the name, “counsel wolf” or “to heal,” feels just right and appropriate this year. Johanna’s generous support and passion ensures the Zoo can continue providing the best care and welfare for the giraffes and all of the animals.

A long-time and anonymous Columbus Zoo supporter won the opportunity to name Jana’s calf through an auction as part of the Wine for Wildlife conservation fundraising event, and she selected the name “Schaefer” in honor of her grandfather, John Schaefer. Along with this donor’s generous support, the Zoo will help fund more than 50 critical wildlife projects around the world.

Digi’s calf also received her name today and is now known as “Sammie” as a tribute to the daughter of generous donor and founder/owner of LeafFilter®, Matt Kaulig. LeafFilter® proudly named Digi previously, and they are excited for the opportunity to name her calf. The Kauligs’ support will help ensure Sammie and all of the Columbus Zoo animals receive top-quality care.

“It’s always an incredible achievement to welcome one giraffe into the world, but to welcome three—especially in one year–is truly a testament to the expertise and knowledge of our dedicated care team. Wildlife conservation is always complex because of the many challenges that these species face, and I am extremely proud of the contributions that the Columbus Zoo team continues to provide to the scientific community as we work together toward solutions to help endangered species. We are also deeply appreciative to our Central Ohio community for their support that enables us to continue this work to make a positive difference,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.

In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Masai giraffe subspecies as endangered as the population has fallen by nearly 50 percent over the last three decades. There are estimated to be only 35,000 Masai giraffes remaining due to various factors, including habitat loss, civil unrest/military operations, poaching and ecological changes.

The Columbus Zoo is a supporter of several direct giraffe conservation initiatives and has raised more than $216,000 for giraffe projects over the past five years. The Zoo also previously provided a one-time $56,679 grant to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation through the Zoo’s Wine for Wildlife Fund-A-Need.

Additionally, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado are the co-founders of the giraffe plasma bank and, along with several other collaborating zoos, work to consistently collect large volumes of plasma from giraffes to send to animals in need of a transfusion. These plasma transfusions have been responsible for assisting in saving the lives of several young giraffes across the country as the vital antibodies and critical proteins in the plasma help provide a life-saving boost to calves’ immune systems. Collection of the plasma is the result of the hard work and dedication of the Animal Care and Animal Health teams who have trained members of the giraffe herd to participate in these large volume blood collections completely awake and voluntarily.

Guests won’t yet be able to view Digi and her new calf as the giraffes have moved inside their spacious winter facility. There, Digi and her calf have been provided access to multiple behind-the-scenes areas to explore, as well as opportunities to gradually meet other members of the giraffe herd, including Zuri, Jana and their calves.

For more updates about the calf’s milestones, as well as information about the other animals, wildlife experiences, and other happenings at the Columbus Zoo, be sure to follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and visit us at ColumbusZoo.org.


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