HOUSTON – The Houston Zoo’s new baby giraffe will make his public debut this weekend.
Yao was born on Monday, February 25, and he’s already more than 6 feet tall and weighs 139 pounds.
Mom, Neema, delivered the healthy male after a 14-month pregnancy. The proud papa is Mtembei.
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"The calf was standing on his own a little over an hour after he was born and was nursing about 4 hours later," said Houston Zoo Hoofed Stock Supervisor John Register
With the new arrival, the Houston Zoo’s herd of Masai giraffe has grown to nine, including six males and three females.
This is Neema’s first successful birth. Her first calf was stillborn.
Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animal. Males average 17 feet in height and can weigh up to 2,500 pounds. Female Masai giraffes typically reach a height of 14 feet.
The Houston Zoo’s giraffe keepers, who cared for Neema through her pregnancy, named the calf Yao in honor of former Houston Rockets player Yao Ming.
Working with the conservation organization WildAId, Yao Ming has led the world’s largest conservation awareness program spotlighting illegal elephant and rhino poaching in Africa and the shark fin trade in Asia.
Yao toured the zoo’s giraffe, rhino and elephant exhibits last month with a group of Pasadena ISD middle school students prior to the NBA All Star game at Toyota Center.
While Masai giraffes are not threatened or endangered in their native habitat, there are only about 100 of the species living in 24 North American zoos.