05/20/2014 09:23 EDT | Updated 07/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Giraffe Born After Artificial Insemination The 1st In Canada

Her name is Safari, and the African Lion Safari says she's the first giraffe in Canada to be born after artificial insemination.

The baby giraffe, born on Dec. 31, is a Rothschild's giraffe, one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe. Her mother, Calgary, was inseminated after nine years of research, and became pregnant on the first try, said Jason Pootoolal, giraffe and hoof supervisor at African Lion Safari.

"She's a precocious young girl," Pootoolal said of the new addition. "She knows how important she is, and she kind of acts like it."

African Lion Safari partnered with the University of Guelph and the German company Geolife over nine years of research into reproductive technology, which led to Safari's birth, Pootoolal said.

Restoring wild population the goal

They now hope to share the semen of Safari's father, Jimmy, as well as the methodology with international conservation organizations to help breed Rothschild's giraffes to release into the wild.

There are fewer than 1,100 Rothschild's giraffes in the wild, he said. The goal is "a big healthy wild population of giraffes."

Calgary was pregnant more than 470 days when she went into labour on the last day of 2013, Pootoolal said.

"As we were all getting ready to go out to our parties, we noticed that the mother started giving birth."

African Lion Safari didn't announce Safari's birth until now so it would coincide with the park opening for the season.

Safari was 60 kilograms and 175 centimetres tall when she was born. 

African Lion Safari is also working on artificial insemination with Asian elephants, white and one-horned rhinos and peregrine falcons.

Artificial insemination programs can often be hard on the animals, said Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Zoocheck Canada. He cites the case of an elephant being inseminated 120 times before the handlers gave up.

"I wouldn’t say every zoo is doing it, but it’s out there, it’s practised and it’s not rare," he said of artificial insemination. And often, "it has little to do with conservation."

Safari is adapting well to her surroundings, Poolootal said, and she's often approaching other animals to smell them or get a better look at them.

"Giraffes are a very curious animal, and all baby animals are naturally curious, but this giraffe is particularly curious."