MEMPHIS, TENN. – Visitors to the Memphis Zoo are seeing spots – very small spots – with the birth of a reticulated giraffe calf. The calf was born on exhibit Friday, May 16, 2014 as visitors got to experience the event.
“Marilyn,” a 21-year-old female reticulated giraffe gave birth to “Tamu Massif,” (tam-MOO mah-SEEF) a healthy baby boy, weighing in at 150 pounds. Tamu is the fifth calf for Marilyn, and the seventh sired by “Kenya.” The Memphis Zoo giraffe herd has nine members.
“Tamu is doing incredibly well,” says Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. “He’s happy and healthy. Marilyn is a great, experienced mother, so she’s taking this all in stride.”
Both Tamu and Marilyn have been out on exhibit. The pair will be spending short amounts of time on exhibit between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., rotating them with different members of the herd.
“Tamu” is a Swahili word meaning sweet. “Massif” is “massive” in French. Roughly translated together, it means “sweet giant.” It is also the name of a dormant, underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean. The volcano is the largest single volcano on Earth, roughly the size of the state of New Mexico.
Reticulated giraffes give birth standing, and are one of the few animals born with horns on their heads. This is to protect them from a 6-foot fall to the ground at birth. A baby giraffe can walk within five minutes of birth, and will feed 20 minutes thereafter.
About the Memphis Zoo’s Giraffes
The Memphis Zoo has kept reticulated giraffes in the collection since August 1957. Marilyn, the female, was moved to the Zoo in November of 2002. Kenya, the father of all six of the babies at the Memphis Zoo, was transferred from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2005. He is 17 years old.
In the wild, reticulated giraffes live in loose herds, constructed of family groups. These groups can range from five to 15 members. The gestation period for a reticulated giraffe is 15 months.