Baby Boom at the Dallas Zoo

November 16, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Molly McKone
mmckone@smu.edu

Three of the giraffes roaming the 11-acre zoo property filled with not only giraffes, but impalas, elephants, zebras, cheetahs, tigers, and lions. (Photo by Molly McKone/Beyond the Bubble staff)


Chimps, giraffes, impalas, piglets, pit vipers, oh my!

Ladies and gentlemen: there has been a baby boom at the Dallas Zoo. From baby chimpanzees, to warthog piglets, the Dallas Zoo is making room for lots of new life this fall.

“We have never seen anything like this before. All of the animals must have really been feeling the love!” said Susan Eckert, the zoo’s public relations director, as she drove her zebra-themed golf cart around the 106-acre zoo recently.

The zoo is extra busy these days taking care of two new chimpanzees, two warthog piglets, five impalas, two pit vipers, two turtles, a llama, flamingos, and a giraffe.

The “Giants of the Savanna” is going to be the new home to baby giraffe Jamie, who was born on July 23. Her mother, Katie, went into labor that morning and Jamie was up and running just minutes after her birth.

The $30 million dollar “Giants of Savanna” exhibit, completed in May 2011, is the newest attraction at the zoo. The 11-acre land is home to many different species, including giraffes, lions, cheetahs, impalas, and elephants.

“Katie was a first-time mom, so we were anxious to see how she would handle the birth process,” zookeeper Jeremy Dillon said.

Sure enough, Katie’s motherly instincts came naturally after her daughter was born. She was nursing very soon after she gave birth and will continue to nurse Jamie for at least another 5 to 7 months.

Jamie, light tan in color, stood 5-feet 10-inches tall and weighed 105 pounds at birth. She is considered petite in size, since the average weight for a newborn calf is between 125-140 pounds.

The zoo’s last baby giraffe, Kibo, was born in 1988. Kibo is now the oldest giraffe in the herd.

This giraffe, eagerly waiting to be fed lettuce by visitors, is one the two males living in the new habitat "The Giants of the Savannah." (Photo by Molly McKone/Beyond the Bubble staff)


Visitors will not be able to feed Jamie in the zoo’s daily giraffe public feeding area, but they can see her playing out in the savanna with her mother.

In the same exhibit, five baby impalas were born between October 2010 and May 2011.

“We only had one male impala, and he made sure he got the job done,” zookeeper Heather Seymour joked. “He must have been really happy in his new surroundings in the savanna.”

Most of the baby impalas are named after pasta; “Orzo”, “Corxetti,” “Manicotti,” and “Ramen”. The fifth is named after his father, “L.J.”, also known as Lloyd Junior.

Elsewhere at the zoo: This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy went to the store, and this little piggy had two babies. On June 13, Akoko the warthog gave birth to two piglet warthogs, Toby and Teddy.

“They’ve been so cute to watch grow up,” Seymour said. “They are both boys, and are super high energy. The play constantly.”

Warthogs are known to be difficult to handle, and trainers have a hard time getting in close contact with them. While Akoko was pregnant with her boys, she allowed the zookeepers to perform ultrasound tests without any problem.

“She completely had mother instincts,” Seymour said. “Even after giving birth she has been a great mom. She is extremely protective and the three of them barely leave each other’s sight.”

Across the park and in the trees, two baby chimpanzees are latched onto their mothers and just starting to climb by themselves. Although they are both babies, one is an aunt to another.
Gerri and her daughter, Gari, both gave birth to two healthy girls within four months of each other.

Gigi is the newest addition to the chimpanzee family. Her mother Gari gave birth on April 17. Gigi is just detaching from her mother and climbing on her own. (Photo by Molly McKone/Beyond the Bubble staff)


Gari and her daughter Gerri came to the Dallas Zoo from the Albuquerque Zoo in 2010. They became pregnant at the Dallas Zoo in 2011. Gari gave birth to daughter Gigi on April 17. Gerri gave birth to daughter Genie on August 25. The chimpanzees are given names that start with the letter “G” in honor of the famous anthropologist Jane Gooddall, who is known for her remarkable chimpanzee research.

The chimps are still nursing, but are slowly detaching from their mothers. The mothers are extremely protective and rarely take their eyes off their babies.

“I can’t wait for the babies to get a little older,” zookeeper and SMU professor John Fried said of the chimps. “We already have a two-year-old, Kona, so it will be exciting to see all the kids playing around.”

Even in the reptile room, babies are being hatched. Two new pit vipers join the display, both born this summer.

New flamingos are learning how to swim, and turtles are officially coming out of their shells.

“More people are coming to the zoo and we recently hit an all-time record of attendees. 742,000 guests have been to the Dallas zoo in the last year,” Eckert said. “I don’t know if it is the babies, or the new ‘Giant’s of the Savanna’, but who wouldn’t want to come see all the cute babes?”

The Dallas Zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The DART transit system can take passengers to the zoo on the red line for just $3 per person. Log on to dallaszoo.com for more upcoming events, including a new “Snowfari” day camp for the little ones, running from Dec. 19 to Dec. 29.

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