Welcome the First Zoo Baby of 2021

Virginia Zoo Keepers are delighted to welcome a newborn Masai giraffe calf born on January 11, 2021. At birth, the baby weighed 148.5 pounds, and stood 6’1” tall. This is the eighth calf for mom, Imara, and thirteenth for dad, Billy.

Zoo’s Animal Care Staff had been preparing for the calf’s arrival although the exact due date is never certain. A neonatal exam was performed 24 hours after the birth by the Zoo’s Veterinarian, Dr. Tara Reilly, with the assistance of Keepers and Veterinary Technicians. The exam revealed the calf is a female, healthy and feisty! Mom and baby are bonding, and the calf is nursing well. She appears strong and is already learning to run!

Through the Giraffe Plasma Bank Initiative, the Zoo received an overnight shipment of several doses of giraffe plasma from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in case the calf needed additional immune system support. The Virginia Zoo also received an additional dose of giraffe plasma from Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, generously hand-delivered from their Veterinarian, Dr. Jonathan Bergmann. Newborn giraffes that take a little longer to nurse can have their immune systems boosted through giraffe plasma transfusions. Luckily, Imara’s calf did not end up needing any plasma.

This birth brings the herd total to six – a record for the Zoo: females, Imara and her calf, Noelle and Kylie, and males, Teddy-Acacia and Billy. The breeding of Billy and Imara is based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® for Masai giraffes. Masai giraffes are currently listed as endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, so the birth of this newest calf is especially important.

To help support the Zoo’s Act for Wildlife fund, it is asking everyone to help name the baby giraffe. For $5, anyone can submit a name suggestion. The names will then be narrowed down to five options by Zoo Keepers and the final name will picked by mom, Imara. Name entries will be accepted from today, January 14 to January 21, 2021.


Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Zoo’s Act for Wildlife fund that supports conservation efforts locally and around the world.