Baby giraffe, Kijiji, new addition at Lee Richardson Zoo

Kijiji stands in the shade with her mother, Cleo, on Wednesday at Lee Richardson Zoo. Kijiji was born last Friday at the zoo.

Lee Richardson Zoo welcomed a new face on Friday, July 20, with the birth of a female reticulated giraffe calf.

Zoo staff have named the calf, Kijiji , a Swahili word meaning “village.” She is the first calf for five-year-old female, Cleo, and nine-year-old male, Juani.

According to the zoo, Kijiji has heart-shaped spots on her upper right leg and under the left ear.

On Wednesday, Kijiji and Cleo stood outside in the shade, watching the watchers as they passed by.

According to LRZ social media posts, zoo staff had been monitoring Cleo very closely last week. Staff always monitor animal health and welfare, but various changes in situation, condition, or health can result in additional observations and this was one of those occasions, especially since this was Cleo’s first pregnancy. At the 7 a.m. check on Friday, Lead Keeper Shannon Coates found Cleo in the early stage of delivery. At about 8 a.m. the baby was born.

“Hours and hours of working with them, monitoring them, and now the pure joy of watching the birth and Cleo being so calm and such a great mom her first time out, the feeling is just indescribable!” said Lead Keeper Pablo Holguin in a zoo social media post. Holguin has worked with the parents since their arrival in Garden City. By 10 a.m. Friday the calf was walking around and had nursed multiple times.

The calf was born in the indoor quarters. Mom and calf remained inside for the day for some bonding time. Juani, the calf’s father, will remain separated from the mother and newborn until the baby is a bit older and steadier on her feet.

The birth is the result of a breeding recommendation from the Giraffe Species Survival Plan Program which coordinates population management for the species within member institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and works to enhance conservation of the species in the wild.

In the wild, giraffe populations have decreased by 40% over the last thirty years due to poaching and habitat destruction. Together AZA members and their partners are working to help save giraffes through education, scientific research, fieldwork, public awareness, and action.