Break out the blue ribbons and balloons, because the newborn giraffe at the Greenville Zoo is a boy named Kiko, officials announced Wednesday.
Autumn, the zoo's 6-year-old Masai giraffe, went into labor just before 11 p.m. Monday, according to Greenville Zoo Director Jeff Bullock. About 50 minutes later, Kiko arrived. He said the calf was walking by 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, and nursed for the first time just before 2 a.m.
Bullock stood in front of the zoo's giraffe exhibit and revealed details surrounding the birth of the calf during a press conference, including the angst felt by not only zoo keepers, but also from people around the world. Webcams installed at the zoo allowed nearly a million people across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Finland and France to witness the birth.
"From Facebook posts, we were able to see people worry before it took its first breath, before it took its first step, wondering if it was going to nurse," Bullock said. "These are things that the zoo keepers deal with on a regular basis."
Veterinarians examined Kiko on Wednesday, and said the newborn is about 5'8" tall and weighs about 118 pounds. They said Kiko may grow to be as tall as 16' and weigh about 2,600 pounds.
"From everything we can determine, he is a happy, healthy baby giraffe," Bullock said. "Autumn's instincts as a mother were perfect. Although she was surprised in the beginning, being her first calf, she quickly let instincts take over, cleaned up the calf, helped it to stand, helped it to nurse and has been an attentive mother ever since."
Bullock said they will keep Autumn and Kiko separate from the father giraffe, 7-year-old Walter, for about four weeks to allow the baby to nurse uninterrupted. He said that during this time, mother and son will switch off exhibit time with the father. He said ticket booth workers will keep visitors informed about which giraffe is on exhibit during their visit.
Kiko, which means Autumn's child in Swahili, was picked from a list of names that were submitted during a contest on WMYI-FM. The radio station will now work to coordinate a baby shower for the new family.
An unofficial poll on foxcarolina.com revealed that 53 percent of users were hoping Autumn would have a girl, while 47 percent were hoping for a boy.
Bullock said one of the best results of the whole experience was education.
"It was amazing the number of people that started looking up information, learning everything they could about giraffes," Bullock said. "So, it's been a great opportunity to not only introduce people to the Greenville Zoo and our giraffes, but [also] to get them thinking about animals and conservation."
Autumn is on a breeding loan from Boston's Franklin Park Zoo. She was paired with Walter, which is from the San Diego Zoo. According to an agreement, Franklin Park Zoo now owns Kiko. He will likely be moved to his new home after about a year. Autumn and Walter's second calf will go to the San Diego Zoo and the pair's third calf will remain at the Greenville Zoo. Bullock said he would expect to see another calf from the pair in about two years.
"Walter and Autumn, even though their status is on-loan, folks can expect to see them permanently here at the Greenville Zoo," Bullock said.
Giraffes are the tallest land animal in the world, and have one of the longest gestation periods of any mammal - 15 months. They also give birth standing up.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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