New Masai Giraffe

The Sacramento Zoo’s giraffe herd has grown from four to five in the last month. “Shani” came to the Sacramento Zoo from the LA Zoo in mid-August and has completed quarantine. She is now exploring the exhibit and getting to know the Zoo’s three female Reticulated Giraffes and her new companion Chifu, a two-year-old male Masai Giraffe.

“Eventually Shani and Chifu will become the nucleus of a Masai Giraffe herd,” said Harrison Edell, General Curator. “As part of the Masai Giraffe Species Survival Plan, the creation of this new herd will support genetic diversity in the North American Masai Giraffe population.”

Born August 30, 2010, Shani stands approximately 11 feet tall. When full grown, she is expected to reach between 16 and 19 feet. Shani’s name comes from the Swahili word for “wondrous.” Keepers have noted that she enjoys the presence of the other giraffes and is getting along well with Chifu.

The Masai Giraffe is the largest giraffe subspecies and is found in southern Kenya and Tanzania In addition to a difference in size, Reticulated and Masai Giraffes tend to have slightly different spots. A Masai giraffe's spots are usually darker and irregular in shape.

Shani and Chifu are two of fewer than 100 of Masai Giraffes in institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Giraffes in captivity have helped field researchers, such as those from the Wild Nature Institute, to recognize physical characteristics and social behaviors in the wild.  The Wild Nature Institute is currently studying the demography of Masai Giraffes and the African Savannah ecosystem with photo recognition software. Through this methodology, researchers can follow the giraffes’ movements and reproduction habits in order to understand where and why they are declining in the wild. The study includes more than 1500 Masai Giraffes. The partnership between the Sacramento Zoo and the Wild Nature Institute is an example of research and education feeding into conservation. 

Shani, the new Masai Giraffe
Shani is the second from left

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