Giraffe with calf at Santa Barbara Zoo.
The Santa Barbara Zoo recently welcomed a new female giraffe calf. The mother, Adia, was in active labor for three hours. The father, Michael, died in February. (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)

It’s a girl!

The Santa Barbara Zoo has a new resident. A female giraffe calf, at 6 feet 1 inch tall and 152 pounds, was born Nov. 2 after three hours of labor from its mom, Adia.

A few lucky zoo visitors may have already seen a glimpse of the newest addition. Adia and her calf joined the herd just three days after her birth. They stayed in the habitat for 45 minutes before returning to the barn, but the two have been spending more and more time in the habitat. 

Rachel Ritchason, the zoo’s director of animal care, said they tried to keep the environment as calm for Adia as possible. Adia gave birth in the giraffe barn, which allowed staff to monitor the progress. 

Ritchason said the new addition is bittersweet as it is the last offspring of Michael, the zoo’s first Masai giraffe who was euthanized in February after battling arthritis. Michael first arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo from Canada in 2011. 

Michael was the most genetically important Masai giraffe in North America because his only relatives were his own offspring. Masai giraffes, which are native to East Africa, are part of the species survival plan that is managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

The species survival plan allows for zoos to keep track of animal genetics and for AZA to make recommendations on where to move animals to prevent inbreeding and support healthy animals to breed more healthy animals. It also helps to limit the number of animals taken from the wild and put in zoos, Ritchason said. 

“We want very healthy, genetically healthy animals, and this helps with long-term sustainability,” Ritchason said. 

During Michael’s time in Santa Barbara, he sired 12 calves at the zoo, nine of which have gone to other zoos as part of the species survival plan. Michael even had two grand-calves at the time of his passing. 

The new calf’s mother is Adia, a 9-year-old giraffe who arrived in Santa Barbara in 2017 from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and now has birthed three calves. The first was Twiga, born in March 2020, and the second was Raymie, born in 2022.

Ritchason said it’s too early to say whether the new calf will stay at the Santa Barbara Zoo permanently or move to a different zoo; it will depend on the needs of the species survival plan. The new calf isn’t related to any of the breeding males currently at the zoo, so she could stay, but her fate is unclear as of now. 

“I really enjoy making sure that we just have really healthy, sustainable populations going into the future,” Ritchason said. “We are just making sure fewer to no animals are coming out of the wild. Keeping a healthy genetic population into the future ensures that my grandchildren have animals to see when they grow up.”

The new calf does not have a name, but the zoo will be having a voting contest for the public to pick the name. Ritchason said there will be more info on the zoo’s social media pages in the coming weeks.