It could be several years before Wellington Zoo gets a replacement for Seun the giraffe, which died last September.
Marketing and communications manager Kate Baker said plans were under way to import a pair of breeding giraffe calves from the other side of the world but it could take considerable time.
To introduce a new genetic line, it was likely the couple would be imported from North America. Those in the Pacific region were too genetically close to the giraffes already at the zoo, she said.
Zahara, 8, and her mother, Tisa, 22, are hybrid Rothschild and reticulated giraffes, a line that is well represented in Australasia.
"We need new genetic stock to help the regional population stay healthy," Ms Baker said.
But the process was likely to take at least a couple of years. Because of New Zealand's strict biosecurity laws, there was no regulation allowing the zoo to import a giraffe from anywhere other than Australia.
Once the authorities granted permission, an American giraffe species co-ordinator would give breeding recommendations for the parents of the calves to be imported.
The cost of each giraffe could reach $100,000, which would cover the permits required and shipping costs, Ms Baker said.
"The main component of the costs is shipping, because of the height of giraffes. So we have to get them before they are too old and too tall."
At birth, a giraffe is about 1.8 metres tall, and it can grow to 6 metres.
The most recent giraffe the zoo imported from overseas was Tisa, which came from Melbourne in 1991. Seun came from Orana Park in Christchurch.
Six-year-old Seun died after suffering from laminitis in his hoof. Although a toe was successfully removed, he did not recover from the anaesthetic.
After Seun's death, Zahara and Tisa were "very hesitant" Ms Baker said.
The zoo stopped human encounters with the mother and daughter for several months.
- The Wellingtonian