Baby giraffe hits the ground walking

After a few weeks of laying low, Maggie the reticulated giraffe makes her public debut at the Oakland Zoo today. The six-foot-tall, somewhat awkward calf was born January 12 to proud parents Twiga (mama) and Mabusu (papa).

Maggie arrived just in time. Next week, the Zoo is hosting a conference for the International Association of Giraffe Care Professionals, which welcomes zookeepers, researchers and conservationists from around the globe to discuss all things giraffe.

Among those welcoming Maggie into her new public life is John Doherty, principal researcher at the Reticulated Giraffe Research Project in the Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. The Oakland Zoo is a partner and supporter of the project, which studies giraffes in their native habitat to better understand how to sustain their population in the wild.

The population of reticulated giraffes in the wild has plummeted 80 percent in the past ten years, with the total population not in captivity estimated at just 5,000 animals.

Giraffe are born to their mothers standing up, with the four- to five-foot drop from the birth canal serving to get them breathing. Within an hour, calves are standing and walking. Maggie weighed 80 pounds at birth and is expected to live a full life of 20 to 30 years.