April the giraffe and her beau, Oliver, probably don’t know it, but the giraffes’ live stream cam on YouTube has attracted a global audience, all of whom are hoping to be watching when the pregnant long-necked animal finally gives birth to a calf. This will be her fourth baby, while Oliver will be experiencing fatherhood for the first time.
Her keepers at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, revealed that the pregnant giraffe is between 15 and 16 months pregnant, which is approximately the average gestation period of 453 to 464 days, reported UPI.
When full labor is underway, giraffes may deliver in an hour or even less, but it’s tricky to know exactly when labor begins, pointed out park owner Jordan Patch.
“The neat thing about giraffe labor is that they instinctively hide the labor signs because in the wild…every hyena and lion would…wait for mom to become vulnerable.”
However, when labor does begin, giraffes give birth standing. The calf emerges with its front hooves first. After the baby is out, the calf will start walking within 30 minutes to an hour later. And while it might seem small compared to its mom and dad Oliver, the calf will be about six feet tall and weigh approximately 150 pounds.
Mother giraffes take six to 10 months to wean the baby giraffes, reported NBC New York. But it’s the first few steps that are important, because that’s required in order to begin nursing from the mom. Baby giraffes can even start running during that first day.
And there’s one way in which baby giraffes are like human babies. They can start eating solid foods after four months. However, the menu is different, because baby giraffes munch on hay, romaine lettuce, leaves, and carrots.
Baby giraffes typically nurse for nine to 12 months, but their upbringing depends on their gender in the wild. While male giraffes remain with their moms for 15 months and then take off to join a group with other male giraffes, female giraffes usually stay with their mothers approximately 18 months and then stay with their herd.
In the wild, giraffes live 10 to 15 years, but they can live up to 27 years in captivity.
One process during the birth is dramatically different from human labor, and that’s the final emergence of the baby calf, according to Animal Planet.
Because giraffes give birth standing up, the calf enters the world from a height. Viewers of the YouTube live stream will see the calf fall six feet to the ground with hooves and head first.
Although that fall may seem like a harsh way to enter the world, it actually is an important part of the birth process. The fall breaks the amniotic sac, severs the umbilical cord, and motivates the calf to take its first breaths.
Once the calf has fallen, the mom will start to clean it. It takes just a few minutes for the calf to start to walk on its wobbly, long legs. In the wild, baby giraffes are vulnerable because they have much shorter gaits and can’t keep up with the herd if there is a predator.
However, in the wild, mother giraffes sometimes leave their babies hidden in tall grass so that they can eat and roam. As they grow, the calf joins other babies from the herd in what are known as “nursery groups” that are supervised by a minimum of one mother who takes on the role of babysitter. That lets the baby giraffes socialize while the adult giraffes graze.
As for the role that father giraffes play in bringing up baby, Oliver the giraffe won’t be playing the role of babysitter when his girlfriend April does give birth, noted NBC New York.
Although 5-year-old Oliver has supported his baby mommy, 15, during her pregnancy, nuzzling her, Oliver recently had to be separated from his girlfriend when they were playing outside. Veterinarians noted that his “rough housing” behavior is frequently seen in male giraffes during the last phase of pregnancy.
“He does not want to play house — he wants to ROUGH house,” noted the park. “That is natural behavior as males take no part in rearing their young, nor have a need for a female once she is pregnant. Sad but true.”
[Featured Image by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images]