A rare Rothschild’s Giraffe calf born on Boxing Day (December 26) at Chester Zoo has been described by keepers as “the best Christmas gift.”
The six-foot-tall youngster, which is yet to be sexed or named, arrived to first time mother Tula at around 7:00 am and was up on its feet just minutes later.
Rothschild’s Giraffes are one of the most endangered subspecies of Giraffe and one of the world’s most at-risk species. Recent estimates suggest that less than 1,600 individuals remain in the wild, primarily as a result of poaching and habitat loss.
Sarah Roffe, team manager of Giraffes at the zoo, said, “Rothschild’s Giraffes are highly endangered and so the arrival of a new calf is a major cause for celebration. It really is the best Christmas gift we could have ever have wished for."
The calf will remain with Tula but separated from the rest of the herd until the two bond with each other and the calf nurses regularly.
Chester Zoo staff point out the Rothschild’s Giraffes are experiencing a “silent extinction.” In the last 45 years, the population of Rothschild’s Giraffes in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park – where they were once found in large numbers – has reduced by over 90%. A huge part of this decline was due to poaching in the 1990s and since then the population has failed to bounce back as habitat loss continues to threaten their survival.
Rothschild’s Giraffes are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. With less than 1,600 remaining in the wild,Rothschild’s Giraffes are more endangered than African Elephants or Giant Pandas.
Roughly one-third of the surviving population of Rothschild’s Giraffes live in zoos, where carefully coordinated breeding programs are creating a safety-net population for the species.