Rare twin giraffes are born at Texas nature preserve

Wed May 29, 2013 9:19pm EDT
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Rare twin giraffes were born this month at a nature preserve in Texas, marking only the second time that living twin giraffes have been born in the United States, the preserve said on Wednesday.

The babies were born on May 10 at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch outside of New Braunfels, but the announcement was delayed because twins often do not survive, said Tiffany Soechting, the ranch's marketing director.

The giraffes - a female named Wasswa and a male named Nakato - are the only living twin giraffes in the United States, she said.

"This is an extreme honor," Soechting said. "There is a lot of pressure involved making sure mother and babies are healthy."

The twins are reticulated giraffes, a subspecies of giraffe common in zoos and characterized by large brown spots separated by white lines.

Wasswa was born first at 95 pounds (43 kg) and was 4.5 feet tall, Soechting said. Nakato weighed 125 pounds (57 kg) and was 5.5 feet tall at birth. In the East African language of Luganda, Wasswa and Nakato mean the first- and second-born twins.

Three-quarters of twin giraffe pregnancies abort early in the 15-month gestation or are stillborn, according to the ranch, which is 30 miles (48 kg) north of San Antonio. It bills itself as an "African Safari, Texas Style," where visitors can drive past free-ranging zebras, antelopes and giraffes.

Just nine sets of twins have ever been born alive at zoos worldwide, said Laurie Bingaman Lackey, who keeps statistics on giraffes for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. That's out of more than 8,000 recorded giraffe births in zoos worldwide since the 1820s.   Continued...

Rare twin reticulated giraffes "Wasswa and Nakato" are shown with their mother in this undated handout photo courtesy of Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch near New Braunfels, Texas provided to Reuters May 29, 2013. Tiffany Soechting/Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch/Handout via Reuters