by Scott Terrell, DVM, DACVP, Director of Animal & Science Operations, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
The next time you’re on safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be on the lookout for Aella (pronounced “eye-la”), a two-month-old Masai giraffe calf who just made her debut on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna. Guests and Cast should be able to easily spot her as she is the youngest and smallest giraffe in the herd.
Born on June 29, Aella was more than five-feet-tall at birth. Up until now, she has been spending precious moments bonding and nursing with her mom Lily in a backstage habitat.
Named after an Amazon warrior, Aella is known to be a brave and bold young giraffe with a curious and independent spirit. She’s adventurous enough to explore on her own, sometimes leaving mom a few paces behind.
Aella’s birth marks a first for her parents – mom Lily and dad George. The pair was chosen to breed through the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and ensures responsible breeding of threatened and endangered species. Breeding this pair is important to the long-term survival of the species because it adds more genetic diversity to the giraffe population, which helps ensure future generations.
Aella will nurse for about a year, and then, as a herbivore, she will move to the lush vegetation available throughout the savanna. When full grown, she will use her 18-inch tongue to strip leaves off thorny branches from the tops and sides of trees to consume up to 75 pounds of food a day. That’s a tall order!
The Masai giraffe is a vulnerable species found primarily in Kenya and Tanzania. There are believed to be roughly 32,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild, and their population continues to decline because of poaching and habitat loss.
The Disney Conservation Fund supports conservation efforts in Africa to protect wildlife habitats, including those of giraffes. Earlier this year, several Disney animal care experts went to Uganda to help relocate a herd of giraffes across the Nile River to establish a newer, safer habitat away from oil-drilling fields. Another team went to Kenya to support a giraffe and zebra population census.
To learn more about giraffes and the threats they face in the wild, visit DisneyAnimals.com.