Equine orthopedic specialist Dr. Wyatt Winchell of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital paid a house call at the Houston Zoo on Tuesday morning, checking up on Yao, the Zoo’s month old Masai giraffe who is battling a life threatening bone infection.
Assisted by the Zoo’s giraffe care team led by supervisor John Register, Yao was sedated to allow Dr. Winchell to take x-rays of Yao’s left rear hip and right front shoulder and performed a saline flush of Yao’s right front shoulder joint.
“The front shoulder joint is the location of the bone infection,” said Register. “There is an infection in the left rear hip, but not a bone infection,” added Register.
After the x-rays were taken, Dr. Winchell performed a saline flush of the front shoulder joint. Fluid from the joint was sampled and will be cultured to assess the status of the infection. Results of the culture are expected in a few days.
“Yao was sedated around 9: 30 a.m. When the sedation was reversed after the procedure he was up and standing by about 10:45 and nursed immediately,” said Register.
Register described the month old giraffe as stable and steady on his feet. “Yao and his mother Neema enjoyed some quiet time outdoors in the fenced paddock outside the barn by themselves,” said Register.
“Yao is headed in the right direction,” said Dr. Winchell, who added that he is encouraged by what he saw during his house call.
“Yao is being a good patient,” said Register. “His appetite is good and he’s gaining weight,” he added.
Our newest and tallest addition, a male Masai giraffe will make his public debut this Saturday, March 2, with his mother at The African Forest giraffe exhibit. Mom Neema delivered the healthy male calf at approximately 7:10 a.m. on Monday February 25 at the McGovern Giraffe Exhibit following a 14 month pregnancy.
“The calf weighs 62 kilos, about 139 pounds and stands 74 inches tall,” said Houston Zoo Hoofed Stock Supervisor John Register. Neema is five and a half years old. The proud father, Mtembei is 6 years old.
The Houston Zoo’s giraffe keepers who cared for Neema through her pregnancy have named the calf Yao in honor of former Houston Rockets player Yao Ming. Working with the conservation organization WildAid, Yao Ming has led the world’s largest conservation awareness program spotlighting illegal elephant and rhino poaching in Africa and the shark fin trade in Asia. Yao toured the Zoo’s giraffe, rhino and elephant exhibits on February 14 with a group of Pasadena ISD middle school students prior to the NBA All Star game at Toyota Center.
“The calf was standing on his own a little over an hour after he was born and was nursing about 4 hours later,” said Register. With the new arrival the Houston Zoo’s herd of Masai giraffe has grown to 9, including 6 males and 3 females. This is Neema’s first successful birth. Her first calf was stillborn.
While Masai giraffes are not threatened or endangered in their native habitat, there are only about 100 of the species living in 24 North American zoos. Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animal. Males average 17 feet in height and can weigh up to 2,500 pounds. Female Masai giraffes typically reach a height of 14 feet. At birth, Masai giraffes weigh between 125 and 150 pounds and stand approximately 6 feet tall.
Meet Hailey Wolfe, self proclaimed Naturalist and Budding Zoologist. Hailey recently brought in an excellent nature journal to trade titled “The Pros and Cons of Being a Giraffe”.
Hailey is quite the gifted writer and created a journal that reads like a storyteller’s tale. She begins with a description of feeding the giraffes here at the Houston Zoo that includes beautiful and artistic detail about the giraffe’s long tongue and big, calm eyes. She invites all to come along with her to learn more about these sweet giants.
She then moves on to giraffes in the wild and completes her journal with information and pictures of the giraffe herd here at the zoo.
Hailey has been trading with us since early this year and has brought in a variety of items including bones, shells and journals. At 11 years old, she already has quite a knowledge of animals and a talent for writing about them.
Nature Journals are one of many things that can be brought in for trade. The more time and effort put in to them, the more points a journal will receive. To see Hailey’s journal and many others, come by the Naturally Wild Swap Shop at the front of the Children’s Zoo.
Don’t know about trading at the Swap Shop? Click here to find out more.
The Houston Zoo has something new in the African Forest – zebra! Our two zebra, Charlie and Image, are joining the giraffe and ostriches in their yard. Monday morning Charlie was introduced to the ostrich and giraffe, and soon Image will join them.
These two zebra have been with the Houston Zoo for many years, and have resided in the West Hoofrun yard alongside several other species, including giant eland, nyala and warthogs. Just last week the nyala Ginger and Niles had a calf, a beautiful brown-haired boy the keepers have dubbed Cashew. He was born at almost exactly the same time as our latest giraffe addition, baby Ghubari, who was born to experienced mom Tyra. (Thanks to everone who participated in the vote to choose the name for this little guy!)
Baby Cashew is healthy and mom is doing a great job of caring for her calf. However, Charlie and Image have been a bit too curious about this new addition to their yard. Charlie in particular has been standing over the calf frequently, whether to offer it some additional protection & shade or out of curiosity, we can only guess. As a result it had become challenging for mom to nurse with a zebra in the way.
So Hoofed Stock Supervisor John Register worked with curator Daryl Hoffman, Vice President Sharon Joseph and Zoo Director Rick Barongi to determine a solution. They brainstormed and evaluated six different options, and concluded that the best solution would be to move the zebra over to join the giraffe.
On Sunday, John and his staff worked to complete the move. Charlie and Image are senior zebra – Charlie is 29 and Image is 31 years old. Both were offered some special food treats inside the trailer to encourage them to walk in, but only Charlie would go. Image will make the trip soon.
Charlie was given the run of the giraffe yard early Monday morning while the giraffes waited in the barn. John’s thinking was that Charlie would feel more comfortable with a gradual introduction. The ostrich were the first to meet Charlie. She seemed curious about the big birds.
At approximately 9:30am John opened the gate, and the giraffes and Charlie were allowed to meet for the first time. Mtembei, new father and head male of the giraffe herd, was first out to greet Charlie. She was immediately curious and even went into the barn to say hello to her other new yardmates.
Written by Mike Tseng, a summer intern at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership
When people think of giraffes, enrichment is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But these adorable, tall animals need enrichment as much as any other animal!
In the wild, giraffes like to eat from tall acacia trees. These trees have thorns which make it difficult for the giraffes to feed from them, and sometimes there are ants living on the trees, which attack the giraffes when they try to feed! However, the giraffes are well equipped to meet these challenges, too! They have flexible, 18-inch long tongues they use to navigate around the thorns on the trees. These tongues also have thick skin to protect them from thorns and ants.
In the zoo, the giraffes are safe from threats when they are feeding, but they also don’t have many chances to use their wonderful tongues. Scientific research has shown that when giraffes don’t get to use their tongues often, they can become “bored” and may exhibit undesirable behaviors such as licking trees and fences. In order to avoid such behaviors, the zoo wanted to build a feeder that lets the giraffes exercise their tongues more often.
For the past six months, a team of freshman engineers from Rice University have been working on an enrichment feeder that challenges the giraffes by making them use their tongues for longer periods of time. This feeder also needs to look more natural in the giraffes’ exhibit. The current feeder is a plastic barrel covered with bamboo with holes drilled on the sides, and bamboo branches attached to it. The bamboo branches get into the way of the giraffes feeding, just like tree branches would in the real world. Also, holes in this device are just the right size–giraffes can put their tongues into the holes, but can’t put in their whole snouts, so they can’t eat the hay without using their tongues to grab it!
The giraffe feeder was created through a rigorous engineering design process by the Rice University freshmen, and no less than four prototypes were produced before the final feeder was made. Of course, we didn’t want the giraffes to get hurt using these feeders! The first prototypes went through safety tests before the giraffes used them. One was dropped from 12½ feet over 25 times just to prove that it was durable! http://youtu.be/Gnp2Mu0YQZc
Even though the prototype is finished, we still don’t know if the giraffes will actually like it!
Before the project can be completed, the puzzle feeder needs to prove that it indeed enriches the Houston Zoo giraffes. This means increasing feeding time and reducing negative stereotypical behavior in them. In order to prove these things, video clips of the giraffes interacting with the zoo’s cage feeder and our puzzle feeder are being recorded. By comparing the recordings, the Rice University students will be able to know if the giraffe are more enriched by the new feeder.
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!
We now need to decide on a name for the little guy. Vote for your favorite name below to help us choose:
On the Eighth Day of Grub, your zoo gift will help to feed…Eight Giraffes a Galloping, Seven Snakes a Slithering, Six Mole-rats Mining, Five Golden Frogs, Four Calling Birds, Three Wild Dogs, Two Grizzly Bears, and Darwin the Cassowary! CLICK HEREto read them all!
What is the best thing to do after your afternoon snack? Well if you are Asali, the Houston Zoo’s nine-month-old Masai giraffe, the best thing is to gallop. Nothing feels better than to stretch out those long, long legs.
While it was too hot that afternoon to get the rest of her family involved in the fun, the heat was of no concern to Asali. Even the ostriches watched in amazement as Asali worked off those calories.
Dinner Time at The Houston Zoo
What is on the menu for the Masai giraffe at Houston Zoo? Our giraffes enjoy hay, fruits and vegetables, and romaine lettuce. However, their most favorite food of all time is the vast array of different plant material provided by the horticulture staff at Houston Zoo. The horticulture staff will search the entire zoo looking for tasty treats for the animals, and since they are so tall, the giraffes are able to see them bringing the food from across the zoo. The giraffe keepers will then place the branches up really high so that the giraffes have to reach up high for them.
This behavior is exactly the same in the wild. Giraffes are able to reach very high up in the trees to get the tastiest leaves. Please come by The Houston Zoo’s African Forest exhibit and watch our herd of Masai giraffes as they explore their exhibit, look for food, lounge in the shade, and of course, stretch out those long giraffe legs.
Written by John Register, Hoofed Stock Supervisor
Help provide tasty and nutritious grub for the Zoo’s giraffes and the rest of our animal family this holiday season: Give the Gift of Grub!
Our thanks to TXU Energy for matching the first $25,000 in donations this year. That’s a LOT of lettuce!
Many of you who have been in the Swap Shop recently have seen the very large mystery box. We are happy to finally announce what was in it! Thanks to a generous donation from The Junior League of Houston, Inc., we now have a complete giraffe skeleton. This was a 9 foot tall juvenile male giraffe from Florida and died. The crate was quite large 6’x3’x2′ and had to be brought into the Shop by fork lift. The articulator (an expert that assembles skeletons) was here on the evening of Saturday September 17, to put it together.
During the week the box was here we held a contest to let kids guess what was in the box. The only clues they had were: 1. It is a skeleton 2. It is an entire skeleton 3. It may or may not be put together already in the box. 4. It is not an extinct animal. We had so many wonderful guesses- everything from alligator to long horn to zebra. We held a drawing Friday September 16, and Cody Molandes was our winner – guessing that it was a giraffe! He won 100 points to spend in the Swap Shop for his efforts!
You never know what you’ll see in the Swap Shop.
Dont know about trading in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
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.
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.
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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!
A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.
A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities. ... See MoreSee Less