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Baby giraffe born on Easter Sunday dies at Belfast Zoo

By Claire Williamson

Published 16/04/2015

The giraffe which was born at Belfast Zoo, and right, with its mother
The giraffe which was born at Belfast Zoo, and right, with its mother

Staff at Belfast Zoo have said they are "shocked and saddened" by the unexpected death of a baby giraffe born on Easter Sunday.

The Rothschild's giraffe calf was born on Sunday April 5 to mother Sandsteen and father Finn.

The calf died on Sunday evening with keepers and the vet in attendance.

Rothschild's giraffes are endangered in their native Kenya, and Belfast Zoo is part of a European breeding programme to help save these beautiful creatures.

Staff at Belfast Zoo noticed that almost immediately after birth the calf was not feeding and was struggling to find Sandy's milk. After the bonding time, staff intervened and were successfully hand rearing the calf.

Unfortunately the calf had picked up an infection at birth and despite receiving medications the calf succumbed to an intestinal infection on Sunday evening.

Belfast Zoo curator, Alyn Cairns said it was a shock to all.

“To say we are devastated by this loss would be an understatement. Sandy gave birth to the calf on Easter Sunday and he seemed strong. Despite her lack of experience as a first time mum, she immediately showed strong mothering instincts," he said.

Belfast Zoo’s vet, Michael Griffith added: "We were able to obtain top quality Jersey cow milk from Clandeboye Estate and were successfully using this to start to hand rear the calf. Unfortunately the calf had picked up an infection at birth and despite receiving medications, last week the calf succumbed to peritonitis (an intestinal infection) on Sunday evening despite intensive treatment.”

Zoo manager, Mark Challis said “Rothschild’s giraffe are one of the most endangered of the nine subspecies of giraffe and are part of a European breeding programme.

"The loss of the calf is therefore not only a huge blow to the giraffe herd and the Belfast Zoo team, but also to the European breeding programme for this stunning animal. Unfortunately death is part of the normal struggle when working with endangered animals but it doesn’t make it any easier when we lose a member of the zoo family.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support during this time and we would also like to express our gratitude to the Clandeboye Estate, for their support throughout the calf’s life.”

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