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Brookfield Zoo introduces newborn giraffe

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:02AM

Its spindly, 6-foot-2-inch frame dropped — quite literally — into the world last week and now Brookfield Zoo’s new giraffe calf is taking visitors.

The male calf, which doesn’t have a name yet, is Brookfield’s 58th giraffe birth — a procedure that involves the baby dropping five feet from the standing mother.

“It’s kind of a rude awakening for the calf but they are pretty solid individuals when they’re born,” said Joan Tantillo, Brookfield’s associate curator of mammals. “They actually think the fall stimulates the calf to take its first breath.”

Starting Wednesday, mother Arnieta and her 140-pound calf can be seen indoors at Habitat Africa! The Savannah exhibit.

To survive in the wild, baby giraffes need to learn to walk almost immediately, Tantillo said. That’s why Brookfield’s new calf was on its feet in about 30 minutes.

Some 80,000 giraffes roam sub-Saharan Africa, including about 5,000 of the reticulated sub-species, the variety that can be seen at Brookfield. The reticulated giraffe — so named for its patchwork markings — isn’t endangered but poaching and habitat loss may soon change that.

A fully grown male may reach a height of 18 feet and weigh 2,000 pounds, Tantillo said. The giraffe is a cooperative, not unintelligent creature, she said.

“They are very quiet creatures and very cautious,” Tantillo said. “So maybe they appear to not be paying attention. ... We do training, and they respond well. They are as intelligent as a domestic horse at least.”

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