Happy Birthday Wasswa And Nakato
May 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Wasswa And Nakato

With a mother named Carol and a dad named Marshall, twins Wasswa and Nakato celebrated their first birthday on May 10th this year. They seem to be doing pretty well, too. Most parents would be a bit concerned if one of their twins weighed in at 465 pounds and the other at 400 pounds, especially when they are just one year old, but Carol and Marshall have nothing to worry about – Wasswa and Nakato carry their pounds well. Maybe it’s their height. They have grown 4.5 and 4 feet tall respectively in their first year with a lot of growing still to do. The super twins are Reticulated Giraffes, and a twin giraffe is a rare thing.

These two are the only twin giraffes in the United States and were born at the 450-acre Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. Since the early 19th century, around 8,000 giraffes have been born in captivity, with only 31 twin births being recorded. As three-quarters of giraffe twins are aborted during pregnancy or are stillborn, these “little” cuties really are something special and the keepers at Natural Bridge are clearly proud and very protective.

Baby giraffes don’t get the most elegant of births. Mothers give birth standing up, so the newly born, leggy giraffes end up falling seven feet to the ground. From there, though, it’s upwards all the way. They can grow as much as nine inches in the first month alone, and just rocket up for the first year. After that, they grow at around one inch a year until they reach their full height, which is somewhere between 16 and 19 feet tall. Adult giraffes are big animals and can weigh anywhere from 1,800 to 2,600 pounds. With all that bulk to feed, they need up to 75 pounds of food every single day. The giraffe probably evolved its unique long-necked shape to reach high into the trees and feed in places where other animals just can’t reach. They munch up not just the leaves, but small branches and thorns, even the insects clinging to the vegetation. Giraffes have been observed chewing on the bones of dead antelopes, presumably to boost their calcium intake.

The main concern at the Wildlife Ranch was adequate nutrition. The worry was that mother Carol would not be able to produce enough milk to feed both twins. With this in mind, keepers and vets at the ranch decided to hand rear one of the twins. Wasswa was raised normally on mother’s milk, but Nakato was fed daily by hand. Although it seems that Wasswa got the better deal and has grown substantially more than Nakato over their first year, the handlers are more than happy with Nakato’s progress. They also believe that the different methods of upbringing have resulted in two giraffes with very different personalities. While they describe Wasswa as being a shy young thing, it’s a different matter altogether with Nakato. He is apparently a lot more “personable and assertive,” probably because of his greater contact with his keepers. In spite of these differences, both twins are extremely playful with each other.

So, deep in Texas, giraffes are thriving, which is perhaps just as well. Numbers of wild reticulated giraffes have dwindled to about 5,000 and these remaining few are in constant danger from poachers. For now, though, Wasswa and Nakato are safe and if you want to know what cute looks like, check out the video of the twins’ first year on the ranch’s home page.

Image Credit: Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch via Facebook

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Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

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