While the world watches April, a pregnant giraffe at New York's Animal Adventure Park, Seattle is on maternity watch, too at Woodland Park Zoo.
Eight-year-old Tufani is expected to give birth sometime between late May and early July.
Woodland Park Lead zookeeper Katie Ahl says the birth date is tricky to pinpoint, because giraffes are pregnant for a relatively long time.
"Even when you know the conception date, a giraffe’s gestation is 14 and half to 15 months long," Ahl said. "You add a few weeks, plus or minus. That makes it about a month and a half, to two and a half window."
Because they’re in captivity, Woodland Park Zoo had a good idea when Tufani and her mate Dave conceived. They confirmed her pregnancy through a fecal hormone test.
"Collected her poop for a month," Ahl said. "Sent it off to the lab."
Now, the graceful 13-foot tall Tufani is visibly more pregnant.
"We're starting to see some development in her belly," Ahl said. "It's starting to get a little bit bigger and fill out."
Until her calf is born, the zoo will continue to monitor her weight and body condition. Her diet remains plant based: alfalfa, leaves and branches, and the occasional "leaf eater biscuit." Imagine a vegan version of a dog treat.
Ahl predicts Tufani will be restless right before she gives birth. Giraffes stand during labor and their calves fall about four feet straight to the ground, but most giraffe calves can stand within in an hour.
"They certainly start moving around right away, and it takes several attempts to get those limbs coordinated enough," Ahl said.
Woodland Park zookeepers plan to do one exam on the calf when he or she is a day old. It's usually a quick 15 minutes. Ahl hopes Tufani takes after her older sister Olivia, who was very calm after delivering her calf at Woodland Park Zoo in 2013.
"She was just in the stall next to him. All we had to do is stand with him, do a quick blood draw and weigh him," to make sure he was healthy, Ahl said.
After that, they'll keep an eye on the new calf as it nurses and grows.
Tufani's baby will stay with her for about two years. That’s when giraffes typically separate from their moms. Then her calf will likely be sent to another zoo so it can mate with a non-relative.
Woodland Park probably won’t have a “giraffe cam” until after the baby is born. Ahl says this Tufani's first calf, and they don't want to make her nervous. But she promises people will be able to see the calf online.
"And you know what? You can always visit the zoo," Ahl said.
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