The Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia welcomed a newborn baby boy this week.
That’s right: Jessie, a 13-year-old reticulated giraffe, is finally embracing motherhood. She is tending to her calf, allowing the baby to nurse and creating that maternal bond, a job she has rejected three times before.
“The first baby that she delivered [at age 5], she didn’t know what was going on, she was actually scared of it,” Richmond Zoo Director Jim Andelin told ABC News. “As soon as the baby landed on the ground, she turned around and was trying to stomp it.”
Jessie gave birth to two more female calves, Josie and Chrissy, that were both bottle-raised.
“We want the moms to take care of their own babies,” Andelin said. “We think it’s important.”
This time around, after a 15-month gestation and a two-hour-and-seven-minute labor, a calm and collected Jessie gave birth to her fourth calf at approximately 5:10 p.m. in the African exhibit on Monday.
The baby boy stood just over six feet tall and weighed approximately 175 pounds.
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Learning from the first three times, the zoo put up the male giraffe so there would be no distractions during the birthing process.
The zoo was kept open so people could watch.
Because Jessie gave birth in the exhibit, the sound the baby calf made when he first hit the ground was so loud, all the other animals in the exhibit took off and ran away. It was like a stampede, Andelin said.
When they realized the sound wasn’t a threat, the animals gathered around to share the experience, watching the birth and then the calf attempting to stand just minutes after birth. One onlooker said, “It was like the Lion King,” according to Andelin.
After many wobbly attempts, the calf was able to fully stand up on its own feet about an hour after being born.
Mom and baby have been kept inside their shelter for private bonding time.
It’s an exciting time for the zoo. Up until now, Jessie was the only giraffe that would not take care of her own baby.
“It was a maturation process for her,” Andelin said.
A name has yet to be chosen and the process could be opened to the public.
The baby is the 11th giraffe at Metro Richmond Zoo. As soon as the baby is strong enough, the zoo hopes to let mom and son back out into the exhibit on a limited basis.