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Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Tuesday, 18 January 2011
How giraffe at Devon zoo wrong-footed staff with baby
Philip Knowling Paignton Zoo - picture Studio 5ive Teignmouth
By Philip Knowling
Paignton Zoo

New baby giraffe at Paignton Zoo
The male calf - named Kito meaning jewel - was born on 10 January 2011

The recent surprise birth of a giraffe at Paignton Zoo shows how animals can sometimes wrongfoot even the most experienced experts.

The young male giraffe was born at the zoo on 10 January 2011 - taking mum Sangha's keepers by surprise.

So how can the pregnancy of a giraffe - with a gestation period of 15-16 months go pretty much undetected?

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park's director of operations and curator of mammals, Neil Bemment, explains.

"Looking after exotic species is not like keeping pets," said Neil.

"Our approach here is non-invasive and hands-off unless intervention is absolutely essential.

"If we have reason to think an animal might be pregnant, the last thing we want to do is dart her or catch her up to confirm it, or otherwise cause possible stress at a time when she might be more susceptible to disturbance - all the more so in the case of an animal as large and as sensitive as a giraffe.

Baby giraffe at Paignton Zoo
The last giraffe to be born was Tonda in February 2010

"In Sangha's case we observed definite matings in July 2009, but no more over the next couple of months, so we anticipated a birth sometime in October 2010.

"We duly saw all the classic signs of a giraffe pregnancy nearing full-term.

"Her abdomen was large, she was somewhat restless and Yoda, the male, was showing some renewed interest in her.

"But when nothing happened, after a couple of weeks we started to wonder whether Sangha had not just 'filled out a bit' over the previous year and Yoda had gone off the boil.

"In fact her restlessness at that time was probably the unborn calf shifting position slightly."

A review of keeper diary entries show that Yoda had exhibited some half-hearted interest in Sangha in September and October 2009, which on reflection must have been more than just half-hearted.

But full matings were never seen.

In contrast to Sangha, Janica's pregnancy - which resulted in the birth of Tonda in February last year - was much more of a textbook example.

We will just have to ensure that Sangha reads the right manual next time!

In pictures: Surprise giraffe born
12 Jan 11 |  Nature & Outdoors
In pictures: Baby giraffe walks tall
24 Feb 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Video: Paignton Zoo shows off baby giraffe
04 Mar 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Donor sticks neck out for giraffe
27 Feb 08 |  Devon



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