MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – A male giraffe calf was born Friday, Nov. 17, at the Cape May County Zoo, just in time for the holidays, said Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, county liaison to the park and zoo.

“He is doing well, and we are thrilled to announce his arrival,” Hayes said. “He is the third calf born to our female, Joanie, and is the fifth reticulated giraffe in our herd. He is joined by his mother and dad, Sterling, his big sister, Zee, and his aunt, June.”

Zoo officials said the calf was almost six feet tall when he was born and was an estimated 150 pounds. He has been well cared for by his mother and under the watchful eyes of the zoo's veterinarians, they said.

“Unfortunately, because of the winter weather temperatures, he won't be visible to our guests anytime soon, but come springtime, this rambunctious little guy will be running around our African Savanna,” Hayes said.

“One calf is born after 15 months of pregnancy,” said Dr. Hubert Paluch, zoo director. “Calves are born at an average of 6 feet tall and can stand within 5 minutes. And 20 minutes later a calf can run close to the same speed of its mother. Giraffes do everything standing up, including giving birth.”

Paluch said when the calves are born they fall an average of five feet, and the fall breaks the umbilical cord and jolts the calf into breathing on its own.

According to Paluch the word “giraffe” has its earliest known origins in the Arabic word Zarafa. The name is translated as “fast walker.”

Giraffes are found in isolated pockets throughout Africa, mostly in arid and dry savanna zones or sub-Saharan Africa regions. Their lifespan in the wild is about 20 years. In captivity, the lifespan of the giraffe is up to 28 years.

Poaching, habitat loss, and degradation are the biggest threats giraffes face, Paluch said. National Parks such as Waza, Boma, Zakouma and Kruger National Parks are just a few parks that concentrate on protecting and maintaining wild populations of giraffes in Africa.

The Cape May County Park and Zoo is open every day except for Christmas from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through the winter. Children's programs are held year round. For more information see cmczoo.com or call 609-465-5271.

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Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176