CCTV cameras at Chester Zoo have captured the beautiful moment a rare Rothschild’s giraffe calf is born – including its first adorable wobbly steps.
The five-foot-tall youngster, which is yet to be sexed or named, arrived at 15:20 on Monday (April 3) to eight-year-old mum Orla.
Zookeepers say that Orla delivered her youngster smoothly following a four-hour labour; bringing an end to her 15-month pregnancy.
Sarah Roffe, giraffe team manager, said:
“Orla went into labour at around noon and, for a little while, we could just see two spindly legs poking out. She’s an experienced mum and a few hours later she delivered the calf safely onto soft straw as the rest of the herd, including her other young Kidepo and Millie, looked on.
“Although it might be quite a drop, and they may fall to the ground with a bit of a thud, it’s how giraffe calves arrive into the world and it stimulates them into taking their first breaths. That whole process, from a calf being born to it taking its very first steps, is an incredibly special thing to see.
“Those long legs take a little bit of getting used to but the new calf is doing ever so well, as is mum. She’s an excellent parent and is doing a fantastic job of nursing her new arrival.
“The world may be waiting for April the giraffe to have her calf over in America, but Orla has beaten her to it!”
The calf is the second Rothschild’s giraffe to be born at the zoo in the space of just four months, following the arrival of male Murchison on Boxing Day.
Conservationists at the zoo hope that both arrivals will help to throw a spotlight on the plight of the endangered species and the different threats it faces in the wild. Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the world’s rarest mammals and recent estimates suggest that less than 1,600 remain.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, added:
“Poaching in the wild over the last few decades has led to a 90% decline in wild Rothschild’s giraffe numbers. Despite ongoing conservation efforts, the species is really struggling to bounce back as the constant threat of habitat loss continues to push the last remaining population ever closer to extinction.
“Right now the zoo is working hard out in Africa on a conservation action plan to ensure that populations don’t fall to an even more critical level. We’ve got to stand tall for these amazing animals.”
The zoo’s giraffe experts are part of an ongoing project in Uganda in Africa, which is aimed at helping and preserving the Rothschild’s giraffe in the wild. The zoo’s team – working with project partner The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) – is working to better understand why one of the last remaining populations of Rothschild’s giraffes in Kidepo Valley national Park is not increasing.
Rothschild’s giraffe facts:
- Mum Orla is eight years old (born 17/03/2008). She has previously given birth to two other calves at Chester Zoo, Millie and Kidepo
- Dad Meru is seven years old (born 03/04/2010)
- Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered of the nine sub-species of giraffe
- They are named after zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of the National History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire
- The species is identified by its broader dividing white lines and has no spots beneath the knees
- Once wide-ranging across Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, the Rothschild’s giraffe has been almost totally eliminated from much of its former range and now only survives in a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda
- Estimates suggest that less than 1,600 Rothschild’s giraffes remain in the wild
- Roughly one-third of the surviving population of Rothschild’s giraffes live in zoos where carefully co-ordinated breeding programmes are creating a safety-net population for the species
- The main threat to the species now is loss of habitat and poaching for meat and hides
- In the past, giraffes were hunted for their tails, which were used as good-luck charms, sewing thread and even fly swats
- Predators to the Rothschild’s giraffe include hyenas, lions, crocodiles and leopards
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