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Nov 27, 2013 5:40 PM by Kirsten Boyd

Denver zoo welcomes baby gerenuk

Denver Zoo has announced to birth of a baby gerenuk ( pronounced gair-uh-nook). The male calf was born November 17 to mother, Layla, and father, Woody. The zoo has named him Stitch.

Stitch joins his parents and full sister Blossom and grandmother Sushauna in the mixed species habitat that also includes Abyssinian ground hornbills Abby, MBili and Hercules and West African crowned cranes Casanova and Francesca. Stitch explored his yard for the first time on Tuesday, November 26 and will have access to his yard as weather allows, but may decide to stay inside in his "nest" while his family goes outside. It is common for baby gerenuk to hide in one place while the family forages and checks in on the little periodically. Stitch is Layla's second calf and she continues to be a very attentive mother, frequently making sure to clean and check on Stitch.

The word "gerenuk" means "giraffe-necked" in the Somali language. The small antelope species weighs between 60 to 100 pounds and can stand about three and a half feet tall at the shoulder, but have long, thin necks as well. Gerenuks also have specially designed hips and pelvises which give them the unique ability to stand up completely vertical on their hind legs. This nearly doubles their height as they browse for hard to reach leaves and twigs in trees.

Gerenuks are known to be shy and young calves are expert hiders, but patient guests may be able to catch a glimpse of Stitch in his yard now, as weather allows. Gerenuks inhabit the bushland, thickets, semi-arid and arid thornbush of eastern Africa. With an estimated wild population of about than 95,000 individuals they are classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Denver Zoo is also working with private nature conservancies and group tribal ranches to protect land for gerenuks and other species in Kenya. This includes providing education outreach to understand wildlife populations and the best way to manage their habitats.

Photos courtesy: Denver Zoo

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