Monday, April 27, 2015
Giraffe, Born at Mexico
City Zoo, to be named via Online Vote
By Allan Wall
election going on in Mexico City, and this time it’s not for the city or national government, but to select a name for
a giraffe calf born at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo.
The male giraffe calf was born on April
19th, 2015, weighing at birth nearly 50 kilograms (that’s 110 pounds for those of us who think in traditional English
weights and measures).
For some photos of the giraffe calf and his mother, click
here and/or here.
The scientific name of the giraffe is Giraffa camelopardalis. It’s
a hoofed animal with a long neck. In fact, it’s the tallest living land animal. There are nine
subspecies in the current classification. The Spanish word for giraffe is jirafa (here-a-fa).
The giraffe is native to the African continent. Its current range is from Chad in the north to
South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia on the east. Its habitats include both
grassland and open forest, as it would be rather difficult for a giraffe to negotiate a thick forest.
For a range map
of the wild giraffe in Africa, indicating the nine subspecies, click here.
Lions are predators of giraffes. Young giraffes can be preyed upon by
leopards, spotted hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles. The giraffe’s hooves are its best defense, and
if can get in a good kick it can stop a lion.
The patches on a giraffe serve as camouflage. But they
also function to release body heat. No two giraffes share the exact same patch pattern.
However, the giraffes in a particular area, being more closely related, may resemble each other more than those of
In the wild giraffes can live about 25 years, and even longer in captivity.
Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s most recent estimate, in 2010, was a total population of fewer than 80,000 wild giraffes
throughout Africa. That’s a decrease from 1999, when the IUCN (International Union for Conservation
of Nature) estimated over 140,000 on the African continent. However, the populations
of southern Africa are doing better than those in the northern zone.
Many African cultures
were quite familiar with the giraffe. Click here for a picture of rock art portraying a giraffe, by the San culture of southern Africa. Click here for ancient Egyptian depictions of giraffes.
In 46 B.C., the giraffe made its first appearance in Europe
when Julius Caesar brought one to Rome.
Today, zoos perform a valuable function in housing giraffes throughout the
world. It allows breeding stock to be protected in far-flung corners of the world. And,
by allowing inhabitants of various continents to view giraffes, zoos give more of the world’s population an interest
and a stake in preserving them. The giraffe is one of the most famous and iconic zoo animals.
The Mexico City
zoo, where this giraffe was born on the 19th, is the one in the city’s Chapultepec Park. (I
invite you to read my article Chapultepec: Mexico City’s Urban Forest, which has some nice photographs taken by my wife and sons.)
The zoo is actually the park’s
most-visited attraction, with 5.5 to 8 million visitors annually.
The zoo has 240
animal species exhibited, and is well-known for its pandas. (See
The Giant Pandas of Mexico City's Rewarding Chapultepec Park from 2013.)
Giraffe mothers give birth standing up, and at birth a baby giraffe is usually
taller than a human being. In the wild, giraffe calves have a high mortality rate and half do not survive
their first year. However, the calf in the Chapultepec Zoo seems to be safe and doing
A giraffe gestation period lasts 15 months. That’s longer than that of a cow (9 months)
but less than that of an elephant (24 months). The calf is weaned at 18 months.
residents of Mexico City have been invited to participate in the naming of the young giraffe. They can
log into a website, under the authority of the Mexico City Secretariat of the Environment (Secretaría del Medio Ambiente, known
Voting began on April 20th and closes on April 30th.
Voters are choosing
among three names: Alif, Omari, and Jiya.
Which of the three names will the giraffe calf receive?
Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years. His website is
located at http://www.allanwall.info.