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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Welcomes 2 New Masai Giraffes

Above: Gowon, a 16-day-old male Masai giraffe at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, gets a kiss — in the form of a lick — from his mother, Aug. 15, 2014.

A new breeding program has born fruit with the births of the first two Masai giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, zoo officials announced Friday.

Gowon — Masai for "maker of rain" — was born on July 31 to mother Genny in a protected area, where the two remained until being released today into the South Africa exhibit. Animal care staff felt Gowon was strong enough to venture into the larger space and meet the herd.

His half-brother, Kamau — "little warrior" in Masai — was born five days earlier and played around with Gowon a little bit, according to park officials.

Together, they're the first of their subspecies born at the park.

Their sire, Hodari, was born at the San Diego Zoo and moved to the Safari Park two years ago to start a Masai giraffe breeding program.

The Safari Park has had 134 Ugandan giraffes, 23 reticulated giraffes and now two Masai giraffes born. The zoo has had 31 Masai giraffe births.

Gowon was a little cautious when first going into his habitat but followed his mother around and meet other members of the herd, which greeted him with sniffs, nose-rubbing and nuzzles, according to park officials.

The zoo said Masai giraffes, also known as Kilimanjaro giraffes, are the world's tallest land animals and are native to Kenya and Tanzania.

At birth, giraffe calves stand at least 6 feet tall and weigh 150 to 200 pounds. When full grown, the Masai giraffe males can be as tall as 19 feet and weigh between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds.

Masai giraffes are the most populous of the giraffe subspecies, but all giraffe populations have decreased from approximately 140,000 in the late 1990s to less than 80,000 because of habitat loss and competition with livestock for resources, park officials said.

San Diego Zoo Global said it is supporting community conservation efforts in Kenya and Uganda that are finding ways for people and wildlife to live together.

Visitors to the Safari Park can see the two young calves with their herd while taking an Africa Tram tour, included with admission. The Safari Park now is home to eight Masai giraffes — five males and three females.

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