Endangered Masai giraffe surprises visitors by giving birth at a Virginia zoo

The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk said that visitors unexpectedly witnessed the moment when Masai giraffe Imara gave birth to her daughter Tisa

An endangered female giraffe in a Virginia zoo surprised unsuspecting visitors by giving birth in front of them earlier this month.

Zookeepers knew that Imara, a Masai giraffe, was pregnant, but they did not expect her to give birth to her ninth calf on the September 9 – especially not in front of visitors.

The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk said it was an unexpected surprise and a unique moment for visitors to experience. The mother gave birth to a heathy baby girl in the zoo's giraffe barn.

"Zoo’s Animal Care Staff had been preparing for the calf’s arrival although the exact due date is never certain." the Virginia Zoo said in a statement.

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Baby giraffe Tisa weighed 122.5 pounds at birth and stood 6 feet tall. 

Baby giraffe Tisa weighed 122.5 pounds at birth and stood 6 feet tall.  (The Virginia Zoo via Facebook)

The baby giraffe, Tisa, weighed a whopping 122.5 pounds at birth and stood 6 feet tall. The name Tisa means "nine" in Swahili – a reference to the calf being Imara's ninth child. 

Zoo officials said they were "on cloud nine" after the birth. They were also enthused about Tisa's progress, gushing about the calf's personality and noting her developmental milestones.

"[An] exam revealed the calf is healthy and full of personality!" the statement read. "Mom and baby are bonding, and the calf is nursing well. She appears strong and is already learning to run!"

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The Virginia Zoo gushed about the arrival of the baby giraffe Tisa, bringing their total number of Masai giraffes to 5.

The Virginia Zoo gushed about the arrival of the baby giraffe Tisa, bringing their total number of Masai giraffes to 5. (The Virginia Zoo via Facebook)

The Virginia Zoo now has five Masai giraffes, including Noelle, Mchanga and Tisa's father, Billy. Masai giraffes are an endangered species usually found in East Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. 

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The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk visitors "experienced" the unique moment when the mother gave birth in the zoo's giraffe barn.

The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk visitors "experienced" the unique moment when the mother gave birth in the zoo's giraffe barn. (The Virginia Zoo via Facebook)

"Masai giraffes are currently listed as endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, so the birth of this newest calf is especially important," the Virginia Zoo added in their statement.