CCTV cameras at Chester Zoo recently captured the beautiful moment a rare Rothschild’s Giraffe calf was born. The five-foot-tall male arrived April 3 to eight-year-old mum Orla. His fall to earth and first wobbly steps were also caught on camera.
Zookeepers say that Orla delivered her youngster smoothly following a four-hour labor; bringing an end to her 15-month pregnancy.
Sarah Roffe, Giraffe team manager, said, “Orla went into labor 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. Chester Zoo’s Giraffe keepers have chosen to call the new calf “Narus” in honor of a valley in Kidepo National Park in Uganda, where some of their Giraffe field conservation work is based.
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 faced in the wild. Rothschild’s Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) 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.”
Chester 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 striving to better understand why one of the last remaining populations of Rothschild’s Giraffes in Kidepo Valley national Park is not increasing.
New mum, Orla, is eight-years-old (born 17/03/2008). She has given birth to two other calves at Chester Zoo, Millie and Kidepo. New 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. It is currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.
The sub-species is named after zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of the National History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, UK. It 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 populations of Rothschild’s Giraffes live in zoos, where carefully coordinated 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.