Giraffe born in Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safari

Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2019 9:33 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the official birthplace for another Masai giraffe at the theme park. The newborn arrived around 2 p.m. Monday and can be seen from the Kilimanjaro Safari.

Read more see photos from The Orlando Sentinel.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019 4:10 PM

Back in November, joy turned to sadness for us in Columbus when an 18 day-old calf born at our famed zoo died suddenly. Turns out they are very fragile creatures. I read where the mortality rate for baby giraffes born in captivity is 25% and as high as 50% for those born in the wild. We also lost another one a while back at The Wilds, an outdoor conservation compound in eastern Ohio, also run by the Columbus Zoo.

I’m a little surprised Disney has their calf on display so soon, usually mom and baby need some alone time. Maybe the environment is such that close monitoring can be done while still having them visible from the ride. But anyway, good luck to the little thing. If you’ve never seen a baby giraffe they are by far one of the most adorable and wondrous things ever, and tourists to AK right now are fortunate to have him there as an added bonus.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:21 PM

I've had the fortune to do a backstage tour of the veterinarian facilities at AK and they're extraordinary. Not being a non-profit zoo has the perk that they can generally spend what they have to on Animal Care, which is consistent with the way that SeaWorld operated as well. The "enclosure" for the giraffes is obviously enormous and free of predators, so I'm not surprised that they're comfortable letting the public see the animal.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:55 PM

There may be a high giraffe mortality rate, but they also breed at a higher rate. A facility can easily have a half dozen giraffe born for every elephant or rhino born. The idea behind getting them on exhibit quickly when there aren't any health issues is that it's easier to get them acclimated if they haven't spent an extended time in an off-exhibit area or shelter.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019 8:14 AM

Jeff is right in that Disney did invest in premium facilities, staff and operations with Animal Kingdom. That said, it's misguided to equate "non-profit" with "no money." Most of the larger, accredited not-for-profit zoos have significantly higher budgets and better priorities than for-profit commercial ventures (think roadside zoos and even many mid-size attractions). Most of the animals in the accredited facilities receive better healthcare than we do.

Disney made the upfront investment into their animal care program because they realized (and were wisely advised) early on that their reputation would absolutely hinge on making the place about more than a commercial venture. As a diversified company, they can continue to make those investments. Most people have no idea what goes into the operation there, but it's the right choice for the brand, for the guests and for the animals.

It seems like a million years ago, but Anheuser-Busch used their parks as immersive brand experiences to build goodwill rather than strictly commercial ventures on their own right (The ownership family also genuinely loved animals and cared about conservation). Seeing the clydesdales, visiting the hospitality house and even offering brewery tours before they became ubiquitous all helped make a beer company seem friendly for families to be around. Such a brilliant move. And they had good conservation messages to boot. One of the things that made me nervous when InBev spun off the parks was that they would now need to stand on their own. Remember that as a publicly traded company, you are legally obligated to make decisions in the best interest of shareholders, which can sometimes lead to foolish short-term thinking and cost-cutting at the expense of long-term investments. If Disney Parks has a bad quarter, the movies and everything else can help offset and keep things flowing. Not so with the Busch Parks these days. Ten years later, things are still playing out and I'm not sure we know the outcome. I know I don't. I hope they can make it work but I'm not sure they have the recipe dialed in yet.

And back to giraffes. These are animals that are welcomed to the world with a walloping three-foot drop to the hard surface of earth. They learn to stand and walk almost immediately because if they don't, they're easy prey for predators including pack hunting lions, wild dogs and hyenas who are literally dying to eat anything. My point is this: (1) it's tough to be a giraffe and (2) even so, they can navigate around slow-moving safari jeeps just fine, almost from birth. Pretty remarkable.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019 6:03 PM

Jetsetter said:

it's tough to be a giraffe

I hear this is the replacement show going in under the Tree of Life.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019 10:17 PM

The reference was implied, but thanks for laying it out. ;-)

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Friday, January 18, 2019 11:27 AM

Nothing like spelling out a joke to ruin it. Sorry, I thought it was subtle enough that it might have been unintentional.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Friday, January 18, 2019 11:27 AM
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Friday, January 18, 2019 1:22 PM

According to the official blog, the animal was born out in the open but is going to be off-stage for a month or so:

https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2019/01/its-a-giraffe-calf-a...l-kingdom/

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Saturday, January 19, 2019 2:30 PM

That's probably best. Giraffes who get into showbiz too young almost always lead a life of depression and addiction.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019 5:34 PM

I'm trying to form the the "pink giraffes on parade" joke, but it just isn't working... B-)

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