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Zoo visitors unexpectedly witness the birth of a baby giraffe

Visitors to the Milwaukee County Zoo witnessed an event that had not happened in front of a crowd since the 1990s; the birth of a baby giraffe.

Witnesses were able to see the mother Ziggy birth a male reticulated giraffe on Aug. 4.

The animal care staff got a call around 11:40 a.m. that day saying that Ziggy was going into labor while she was in her outdoor habitat. The staff quickly rushed to the exhibit where Ziggy gave birth to a baby male giraffe at 12:20 p.m.; by 1:40 p.m., the calf was on its feet and walking, said Jennifer Diliberti-Shea, media relations coordinator for the Milwaukee County Zoo.

"It all happened so quickly," Diliberti-Shea told NPR over the phone. "Witnessing a moment like this can be out of the ordinary depending on the animal. We've had camels that have been born with the visitors there. Giraffes, not so much. We think that the last one — and our curator was not here at the time, so we don't have an exact date — was in the 1990s. So it's, you know, not a common occurrence."

The zoo has been in the midst of a baby boom since the spring. The new additions include a harbor seal and two macaques, Diliberti-Shea said. In June, there was also the birth of another giraffe named Poppy.

The unnamed calf is currently doing well being under the watchful eye of his mother Ziggy.

"I think there were some, you know, people maybe that were surprised, I guess that it happened in the exhibit and I think maybe that left people a little bit unsettled," said Diliberti-Shea. "And it really shouldn't. Because we have all of the animal care people there, we have veterinarians that are on staff. So, you know, as soon as they got the call that this birth was happening, they rushed over there. And it was just a matter of trying to get the mom into the sort of a more private area, but she didn't seem to be too shocked by it or too unsettled by it."

"We just want to assure all of our visitors that this little guy is doing really, really well and he's nursing," Diliberti-Shea added.

Reticulated giraffes are endangered and native to the savannas of Africa, Diliberti-Shea said.

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