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Birth watch for Woodland Park Zoo giraffe begins

Tufani, an 8-year-old giraffe at Woodland Park Zoo is expecting. (Courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo)

Get ready for cuteness — a baby giraffe is on its way!

The birth watch for Tufani, an 8-year-old giraffe who is expecting her first baby, began in earnest at Woodland Park Zoo this week.

Zoo officials say the expectant mother started showing behavioral changes earlier that let her handlers know her baby’s birth is imminent.

The birth window for giraffes, which have a gestational period of 14 to 15 months, can be long, and zoo officials say the baby could be born anytime between now and early July.

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Tufani has been staying in her corral instead of going outside with the two other giraffes at the zoo, handlers say.

In addition, changes in her udder have been observed as well as a decrease in her appetite and an increase in her restlessness “which lead us to believe she’s approaching labor,” said Katie Ahl, a lead zookeeper at the zoo.

“All of these indicators mean Tufani could give birth within the next few days to a week, but predicting giraffe births is not an exact science, especially with the long birth window. We’ll continue monitoring Tufani closely. We are very excited for this new baby giraffe to join our herd!” said Katie Ahl, a lead zookeeper at Woodland Park Zoo, in a press release.

While the zoo is not going to have a live birth camera on Tufani, a spokeswoman for the zoo said they plan to live stream from the barn soon after the birth once the calf is stabilized, mom and baby are bonding and baby is nursing. Curious giraffe lovers can also follow updates at www.zoo.org/tallestbaby and through the hashtag #tallestbaby on the zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Baby giraffes are about 6-feet tall when they are born and, because their mothers give birth while standing, enter the world with a five-foot drop to the ground. Newborns usually can walk within a half hour and run around a couple hours later.

The giraffe’s baby daddy is 4-year-old Dave, who arrived at the zoo in June 2014.

The match of these two first-time parents was made through a breeding recommendation made by the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative, conservation breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos, according to a news statement released by the zoo this week.

To see the zoo’s latest video updates on Tufani and her pregnancy, take a look at the zoo’s blog here.

In addition to Tufani and Dave, the other giraffe at the zoo is Tufani’s sister, 10-year-old Olivia, who in 2013 gave birth to Misawa, the zoo’s last viable giraffe baby. Misawa has since been moved to a zoo in Texas where he will be trying to “begin his own family,” the zoo said.

While zoos and their breeding programs are controversial in some areas, supporters say the breeding programs help ensure the survival of many endangered species.