INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. —The Indianapolis Zoo welcomed a new calf last week! Makena (ma-kay-nah) is the first female reticulated giraffe born at the zoo since 2000. Makena means “happy one” or “abundance” in Swahili. The calf weighed 134 pounds and stood about 6 feet tall at birth. She is already growing and will be several feet taller before her first birthday.
The newborn is the seventh calf — and only female — for 21-year-old mother Takasa.
Following a 15-month pregnancy, female giraffes give birth standing up. While their arrival into the world is somewhat abrupt, newborn giraffes are extremely resilient and are typically up on their feet in less than an hour. The zoo’s spirited newcomer stood up and began nursing soon after birth. Zookeepers said the calf is also curious and adventurous, exploring her surroundings though never venturing too far from her watchful mom.
Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, giraffes bear a beautiful coat of brown spots that helps provide camouflage on the arid plains. While every giraffe’s pattern is unique, the zoo’s youngster currently takes after her father, 8-year-old Majani, with her coloration. Both have lighter, caramel-colored patches compared to Takasa’s darker, cinnamon-colored spots.
The tallest mammal on land, giraffes are one of Africa’s most iconic species, yet they are still vulnerable to extinction. To support a healthy population of animals in human care, the zoo maintains an active giraffe breeding program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Like all of the zoo’s animals, this newborn will be an ambassador and help to raise awareness for conservation of the species.
The zoo’s giraffe herd, which is now up to five, will remain inside its climate-controlled indoor facility throughout the winter. The new family is expected to make its debut in the spring, and at that time, guests will have an opportunity to meet members of the herd up close during public feeds.