Oakland Zoo Giraffe Herd Welcomes New Baby - Kendi

Oakland Zoo
October 20, 2023
Kendi, new baby giraffe, exploring temporary holding area at Oakland Zoo;
Photo Credit Oakland Zoo - Steve Goodall

Oakland,CA – October 20, 2023… Oakland Zoo is celebrating the newest addition to the giraffe herd, starting a new generation and family. After a very long pregnancy (giraffes have a gestation period of 14-16 months),Kijiji (mother) gave birth to her first calf, Kendi (female), yesterday morning on habitat. Kendi is approximately 150 lbs. and is 6.5 feet tall. Kendi means ‘loved one,' paying homage to Kenya, where you can find reticulated giraffes in the wild.

Kijiji has already exhibited her loving and protective nature by guiding Kendi into the giraffe barn. A separate area has been set up by Keepers in the barn for the calf and mother giraffe to bond peacefully. Kendi is already standing and walking around the giraffe barn and has successfully nursed from its mother. Kendi is expected to remain behind the scenes with the mom for approximately two weeks for the mother and baby to develop their relationship.   

Kijiji was brought to the Oakland Zoo in 2020 from Lee Richardson Zoo. The move was prompted by a recommendation from the Association of Zoos andAquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs are developed to help ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA species population throughout AZA-accredited zoos in the U.S. In line with their accreditation, the Zoo’s animal management program values the positive impacts of a healthy herd that supports future individual animal well-being. 

Kijiji (mom) and Kendi in giraffe barn at Oakland Zoo;
Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

“We’re so excited to have a new baby join the herd. With the expertise of our staff, we’re prepared to assist Kijiji as she enters this stage in life asa new mother,” says AmyPhelps, Assistant Zoological Manager at Oakland Zoo.  

Kijiji's keepers describe her as curious, intelligent, and sassy.  She has excellent training skills, which have been helpful in the months leading to her delivery. She has participated in weekly training sessions.

Giraffes are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The wide range of reticulated giraffes once enjoyed is quickly disappearing due to habitat loss, population growth, urban development, agriculture, and mining.  They are also victims of the illegal wildlife trade– a lucrative business that involves capturing, transporting, and selling hundreds of millions of plants and animals on the black market. Among the animals targeted for trade are giraffes, whose pelts, bones, hair, and tails are highly profitable. The COVID-19 pandemic has only fueled this illegal activity, as poaching has increased due to food scarcity and job loss. This trade is worth billions of dollars, significantly threatening the world's biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Giraffe mom Kijiji and Baby Kendi in temporary holding area;
Photo Credit Oakland Zoo; Steven Goodall

As Kijiji carries on her role as a mother, she and her calf will serve as ambassadors, educating guests about their wild giraffe counterparts. By having giraffes at the Zoo, the hope is to bring appreciation and awareness to the giraffe species, including the challenges they face in the wild. Oakland Zoo partners with the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya, a conservation organization dedicated to working with local communities in Africa to help reduce human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss to preserve endangered wild giraffe populations.

Once Kendi makes her public debut on habitat with its mother, the Zoo will have a livestream for guests and followers to tune in to everything going on with the herd. To follow the calf’s journey on live cam, save this link: www.oaklandzoo.org/webcams/giraffe-cam