KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Zoo Knoxville could have its first giraffe birth in 17 years.
Frances, a three-year-old giraffe, is exhibiting signs that she is in the final stages of pregnancy and her team of caretakers are preparing for the baby’s arrival, Zoo Knoxville said in a news release.
The giraffe calf is expected to be born in the next few weeks.
“We are very excited to share this news with our community,” said Phil Colclough, director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education for the zoo.
“We are hopeful that we will welcome a healthy baby, who will be an important ambassador for giraffe conservation,” he said. “With the serious threats giraffes in Africa are facing, this calf is critical to maintaining a healthy and viable population for the future.”
Frances came to Zoo Knoxville in September 2016 to be paired with the zoo’s 16-year-old male Jumbe on the recommendation of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan, a collaboration of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) working to save giraffes from extinction.
This will be the first offspring for both Frances and Jumbe.
The population of wild giraffes has declined dramatically over the last few years, and now there are fewer than 100,000 giraffe left in Africa, according to zoo news release.
Giraffes are threatened by habitat loss, competition with growing human populations and being hunted for bushmeat, according to Zoo Knoxville.
With a 40% decrease in their populations, giraffe are critically endangered, it said.