The Chester Zoo has a new shining star.
On March 3, 13-year-old Rothschild's giraffe Orla gave birth to her sixth calf, a male giraffe who has yet to be named. The new arrival is the tenth calf dad Meru, 10, has sired at the zoo.
The baby giraffe was born on a soft bed of straw, but he didn't stay resting for long. Shortly after his birth, the 6-foot newborn was up on his hooves, taking his first shaky steps.
"Giraffes give birth standing up, and so their young receive quite a welcome to the world, dropping around six feet to the ground. Although this seems like a long way, the fall actually breaks the umbilical cord and helps to stimulate the calf's first breath — it's a dramatic entry, but it's just how they do it!" Sarah Roffe, the English zoo's giraffe team manager, said in a statement about the eventful birth.
"The new calf has arrived at the end of a 15-month pregnancy for mum Orla, and already he stands at 6ft — he could grow to be up to 18ft tall. Orla, an experienced mother, has slipped back into the role like a natural. She's doing everything right, and it's lovely to see the close bond between the two of them," Roffe added.
The calf's arrival is exciting news for the Chester Zoo, which works to conserve this species. According to a zoo release, Rothschild's giraffes are highly threatened in the wild and have suffered a 50 percent decline in recent decades.
"Once wide-ranging across Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, the Rothschild's giraffe has been almost eliminated from these areas and now only survives in a few small, isolated populations. Encouragingly, they are starting to recover with the support of conservation programs such as those supported by Chester Zoo, but they're still threatened with habitat loss and an ongoing poaching crisis, which has seen giraffes hunted for their tails to be used as good-luck charms," Mike Jordan, the director of animals and plants at the Chester Zoo, said of what giraffes are experiencing in the wild.
Not only is the calf a welcome addition to the overall giraffe population, but he is already beloved by his zoo herd too.
"This latest arrival joins a group of eight Rothschild's giraffes at the zoo and it's always an exciting time for the herd when a new calf arrives. Two of the older females, Dagmar and Tula, appear to have taken on the role of protective aunties, helping Orla to watch out for the newborn. The other youngsters in the group love running around together and so, as soon as the calf starts to increase in confidence and venture outside, I'm sure they'll enjoy having a new playmate around," Roffe said of the new calf's role in the group.
While the Chester Zoo is temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, zoo guests are sure to fall in love with the baby giraffe when they return. At just over a week old, the calf has already become rather photogenic and has been caught on a few occasions making faces for the camera.
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