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Only set of  living twin giraffes in
the US reach milestone first birthday


Rare Twin Reticulated Giraffes born at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch continue to thrive

New Braunfels, Texas—Twin Reticulated Giraffes, the only living set of twins in the United States, will celebrate their 1-year milestone birthday on May 10. The first-born female calf, Wasswa, has grown 4.5 feet and has gained 465 pounds. The second-born male calf, Nakato, has grown 4 feet and has gained 400 pounds.

The twin giraffes were the 19th and 20th giraffes born at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, a 450-acre animal preserve recognized in Texas as a top family entertainment attraction. In operation since 1984, the ranch’s successful breeding program spawned the twins’ mother, Carol. Born in 2005, Carol was the 12th giraffe born at the ranch.

“The twins’ birth was extremely rare. We didn’t have science or history as a guide,” said Tiffany Soechting, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch marketing director and animal specialist caring for the newborn giraffes. “We have taken extremely cautious steps to ensure their health because they have so much to teach the zoological community. Every day we count our blessings that they are thriving.” The twins have a lot more growing to do. The average Reticulated Giraffe will grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh between 1,800 and 2,600 pounds. “The parent-hand-reared dichotomy has definitely played a role in their personality development,” said Soechting. “Nakato—fondly known as Buddy at the ranch--is more personable and assertive. Wasswa, who nursed for 6 months, is shy. Both are playful with each other.” Nakato was hand-reared since birth to ensure he received adequate nutrition, as animal caretakers and veterinarians had a concern that the mother would not be able to produce enough milk for both offspring.

According to Laurie Bingaman Lackey, giraffe studbook keeper for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the twin giraffes are the only living set of giraffe twins in the US. Only nine sets of living twins have been born in zoos of the world. Since the 1830s there have been over 8,000 recorded giraffe births in zoos worldwide; the twins' birth at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch are the 31st recorded set of twins. Three-quarters of twin pregnancies abort early in gestation or are stillborn.

“With an estimated 5,000 Reticulated Giraffes left in the wild, the rare birth of twins within our breeding program has inspired us to educate and generate awareness of these amazing creatures,” said Soechting. “The more we can share, educate and inform, the better.”

There are eight giraffes residing at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, including the twins’ father Marshall. Marshall is 11-years-old.

The average giraffe gestation is 15 months. Giraffes give birth standing up. Calves fall 6 feet to the ground, and stand up and run within an hour of birth. Giraffe calves are reliant on their mother’s milk for up to 6-12 months, dependable on available forage. Giraffes are the tallest living land mammals with average height ranging from 16-19 feet.

“It definitely has been double the fun to see so many people support the ranch and want to share in a piece of zoological and biological history,” said Judy Young, New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau Director. “When you see a group of elementary students marveling at the twin giraffes, it’s a testament to the power of experience and education.”

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Giraffe Twins, Wasswa & Nakato - Fact Sheet

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is the birthplace of the second set of living Reticulated Giraffe twins born in the United States and the ninth set of living twins born in the zoos of the world.

It is a rare birth. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, since the 1830s there have been over 8,000 recorded giraffe births in zoos worldwide; the twins' birth at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch are the 31st recorded set of twins. Three-quarters of twin pregnancies abort early in gestation or are stillborn. Only 9 sets of twins have been reported living at birth.

  • Carol gave birth to a healthy set of twin Reticulated Giraffes on Friday, May 10, 2013.
  • Carol’s noticeable labor started at approximately 2 p.m.  The first baby was born at 4:15 p.m. and the second was delivered 15 minutes later.
  • Giraffe gestation is 15 months. They birth in a standing position. Offspring drop 6 feet to the ground. They are able to stand and nurse within one hour.
  • The first-born female was 4 1/2 foot tall and 95 pounds. Her size was much smaller than average size at birth.  She was given the name Wasswa, which is an African name for first born of twins.
  • The second-born male was 5 1/2 foot tall and 125 pounds. Average height and weight for a baby giraffe. He was given the name Nakato, which is the coordinating name given to the second born of twins.
  • Carol was in her outdoor paddock when she gave birth. A large crowd of ranch caretakers witnessed the birth, respectfully quiet and at a comfortable distance away.
  • Marshall (father) was separated from Carol and the twins to prevent increased chance of accidental injury to the babies.
  • Nakato (male) failed to stand after 2 hours after birth. With a threat of inclement weather/heavy thunderstorms, the hard decision was made to take him to an isolated facility for safety.
  • Animal caretakers at the ranch and veterinarian Dr. Kenny Patin also were concerned that Carol (mother) would not be able to produce enough milk to support both babies.
  • It is imperative that the baby receive colostrum (a mother’s first milk) within the first hours of life as the receptors to receive these special concentrated immune cells will not absorb the colostrum after 6-24 hours.
  • At 4 days old, Nakato was re-introduced to his family at the giraffe facility. He was placed in the enclosure next to his mother & sister.
  • Short, supervised visitations in the same enclosure are given as mother has shown mild aggression towards Nakato as she “sees” him as a threat to “stealing” milk from Wasswa.
  • Time will tell if Carol will come to realize that Nakato is not a threat. The twins and mother may be able to co-exist in the same enclosure, but as the births are rare, science is not able to define what can be expected.

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