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Cheyenne Mountain Zoo builds anticipation for 200th giraffe to be born on site

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Muziki - COURTESY CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Muziki

It’s been a big week at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Their most iconic attraction, the giraffe herd, is about to expand. A blood test from Tuesday confirmed that  two female giraffes are pregnant and expecting in late April. The big deal: One of these giraffe calves will be the 200th giraffe born at the zoo since it first started breeding giraffes in 1954.

Love was in the air around Valentine’s Day in 2017, when Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s bull, Khalid, bred with two females, Muziki and Laikipia. Muziki was confirmed pregnant in 2017, but for Laikipia, results were unclear. An initial blood test in June 2017 showed signs of pregnancy, but until this week, nothing could be confirmed because Laikipia would not cooperate to have her blood tested.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo prides themselves on not forcing animals into any tests or activities that the animals don’t want to do. This made the pregnancy test a slow process. They used an operant conditioning technique to train the females to stay calm and stationary when they have blood drawn. The females learn that when they do this well, they get a positive reinforcement, usually a treat. On Tuesday, the trainers were working with Laikipia on this skill, and she did so well that they followed through and took the blood sample.

The zoo revealed the pregnancy to the public by hiding a sign reading “She’s Pregnant!” behind the giraffes’ favorite snack, leafy greens.The two female giraffes ate the food around the sign until the words appeared and the big news was announced to the entire zoo community.

The staff are currently using a similar training technique to get the female giraffes to cooperate for an ultrasound.

Giraffe gestation typically ranges between 14.5 and 15 months, but varies depending on the giraffe. Both Muziki and Laikipia are already showing their pregnancy by the increased size of their stomachs and udders. Sometimes it is even possible to see the babies moving around in their
stomachs.

Training Laikipia to stay still and calm during a blood draw. - COURTESY CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Training Laikipia to stay still and calm during a blood draw.

The zoo plans to share this exciting time with any and all giraffe fans, by placing a live-streaming “birth cam” in the females’ stall and marking the giraffes so that viewers can tell them apart (and chose who they want to root for). This live stream will begin in mid-April, when the giraffes’ behavior will noticeably start to change due to their pregnancies.

The actual births may or may not be filmed, depending on how the giraffes react to humans at that time.

The zoo staff looks forward to sharing the personalities of these two giraffes with the world. While giraffe baby #200 will get the initial glory, #201 is destined to get more than enough attention from zoo visitors, staff and the other giraffes.

Every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. leading up to the births, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo will host #200 Tuesdays, where the staff will update the public both live at the zoo and on social media about the Race to #200 between Laikipia and Muziki.


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