A fourth Masai giraffe was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on November 13, the offspring of zoo giraffes Audrey and Michael. Buttercup, a male calf named by donors Amy and Jeff Pryor, arrived at 1:45 p.m. and was nursing a few hours later. His height, weight, and health will be assessed today by zoo veterinarian Dr. Julie Barnes, and in the meantime, baby and mother are being kept out of the public eye in the giraffe barn.
“Because there are just over 100 Masai giraffes in captivity in North America, each birth and each giraffe is very important,” said Sheri Horiszny, the zoo’s director of animal programs. Betty Lou, the zoo’s second female Masai giraffe, is also pregnant by Michael, with a birth expected next March.
Buttercup is Audrey’s third calf in four years. Born in February 2008, Audrey arrived from the Los Angeles Zoo in March 2010, and zoo officials were surprised to discover she was pregnant with Daniel, who was born in January 2011. Giraffe gestation is 14-15 months. Daniel died in 2012 after complications from surgery to treat an infection in his jaw. Audrey’s calf Dane, born in April 2013, was recently relocated to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas. The zoo’s male giraffe, Michael, is an important link in a Masai giraffe breeding program among West Coast zoos, as he is not genetically related to any female giraffes in the U.S., with the exception of his daughter, Sunshine, born to Betty Lou in April 2013 and now at the Phoenix Zoo.