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Giraffes Giving Birth at Zoo
At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, viewers witness the birth of a giraffe, which enters the world six feet above ground.
Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is normally born, although twins occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m (6 ft) tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding; its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.
Mothers with calves will gather in nursery herds, moving or browsing together. Mothers in such a group may sometimes leave their calves with one female while they forage and drink elsewhere. This is known as a "calving pool". Adult males play almost no role in raising the young, although they appear to have friendly interactions. Calves are at risk of predation, and a mother giraffe will stand over her calf and kick at an approaching predator.
Females watching calving pools will only alert their own young if they detect a disturbance, although the others will take notice and follow. The bond a mother shares with her calf varies, though it can last until her next calving. Likewise, calves may suckle for only a month or as long as a year. Females become sexually mature when they are four years old, while males become mature at four or five years. However, males must wait until they are at least seven years old to gain the opportunity to mate.
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