For weeks, fans have watched April the giraffe and her beau Oliver nuzzling, snacking, and even pooping. Then, over the weekend, the live stream cam on YouTube attracted 1.2 million fans with the news that the pregnant long-necked animal was finally giving birth. As the much-anticipated baby emerged hooves-first, the sight of the little giraffe was quickly followed by adorable bonding between mom and what was revealed to be her son. As for dad Oliver? A bewildered expression on Oliver’s face at the sight of two giraffes where there had been one in the adjacent pen has been replaced by what his keepers at Animal Adventure Park describe as a “calm” demeanor.
Born on April 15 at Animal Adventure Park, Oliver’s son weighed 129 pounds (58.5 kilograms) when he was born, standing 5 feet 9 inches (nearly 2 meters) tall. Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch described how the giraffes’ veterinarian and team are caring for the nursing mom and baby in an interview with Live Science, along with how Oliver feels about becoming a first-time dad.
There are key milestones in the baby’s life, noted Patch, and the “hard part” involved seeing the baby wobbling on its frail legs to begin nursing. Next up is weight gain, with the baby expected to gain “about 1 to 3 percent of its body weight per week.” Jordan noted that thus far, the baby has been on schedule for his growth.
“Just overnight, [the baby] experienced about a pound to a pound-and-a-half of weight gain, which is a great progression.”
Next up, baby and mom head to the yard, where the calf will learn to enjoy the great outdoors.
“The calf experiences the outdoors — frolics and plays and learns to keep its balance in a bigger space when it’s running around,” explained Patch.
By this weekend, the baby should be able to head outdoors, according to her caregivers. After that milestone, the calf will continue growing and, when it’s just a few months old, start nibbling on hay. But that doesn’t mean his mom has finished raising her son.
“We’ll see it begin to investigate hay, nibbling on it. But by no means is it sustained yet by that kind of a food source, it will still rely on mom,” added the giraffe’s owner.
So what exactly do you feed a nursing giraffe? Plenty of calories, with her special diet of Wild Herbivore Pellet Plus from Mazuri Diets providing the nutrition that she needs, according to Patch. The famous mom also takes in extra calcium along with various vitamins and minerals so that she can nurse.
To weigh the baby and check his height, the team has separated mom and baby. The calf is noticeably “quite adventurous for such a young calf,” commented Jordan, who noted that the baby is happy “exploring” and eagerly greeting visitors.
“He’s showing a very social personality.”
The baby’s life currently involves getting daily checkups from the vet, with the giraffes’ keepers tracking the calf’s height and weight.
“I will pick up the calf and stand on the scale and get that reading,” noted Jordan. “And we deduct my body weight from that to get an accurate reading of the calf’s current size.”
The vet listens to the baby’s heart and lungs, and also checks the umbilical cord area to ensure it is healing properly. Once the baby starts to defecate, those samples will be checked as well.
New dad Oliver has been watching his son through a screen. Patch revealed that they hope to move from the observation stage to combining the long-necked family of three. Oliver’s personality is distinctive from typical male giraffes because they usually don’t help in bringing up baby, noted Jordan.
“Oliver’s curious nature is already a very positive sign, because usually giraffe males do not take part in any of the rearing of the young,” commented the Animal Adventure Park owner.
“The fact that Oliver is so calm and inquisitive is promising to us that eventually they will share space.”
However, that won’t happen for a few months. In the interim, the keepers have noticed that the new mom is “certainly protective of the calf around Oliver.” Despite that protective nature, Oliver and his long-necked girlfriend still occasionally interact.
“We still do get snippets of time where she goes over and they greet one another, and lick each other and engage in what I guess you’d consider a giraffe hug,” added Patch.
As revealed on the proud mom’s Twitter account, Oliver recently met his son.
When it comes to whether those “hugs” between the baby’s parents could produce what would be Oliver’s second and April’s fifth baby, their owner said it’s a waiting game, reported New York Upstate.
“It’ll depend on the weaning process and the condition of April’s body,” explained Jordan. “We’ll decide after that whether she can conceive and carry a pregnancy again.”
It will be months before the baby is weaned, however. After that, the matured calf will be moved to another facility as part of conservation for giraffes.
“The intention…in getting giraffes in our park is to take part in a preservation program…. Giraffes…need conservation efforts to sustain their numbers.”
In the wild, giraffes’ population numbers have fallen by nearly 40 percent in the past 30 years, commented Patch. Consequently, by moving the baby when he is older to a different facility, he “will develop its own herd and eventually sire some beautiful offspring.”
[Featured Image by Animal Adventure Park/AP Images]