Belfast Telegraph

Baby giraffe makes welcome début at Belfast Zoo

Rothschild’s giraffes are endangered so arrival of new calf is especially timely, as Friday, May 19 is World Endangered Species Day.

Sue Doherty

A new baby giraffe calf called Gilbert is delighting visitors and staff at Belfast Zoo.

The latest addition to Belfast’s herd of endangered Rothschild giraffes was born to mother, Daisy and father, Finn, on Sunday, 7 May after a 15 month pregnancy.

Belfast Zoo is introducing Gilbert to the world this week to highlight the fact that this Friday, May 19, is World Endangered Species Day.

Zoo curator, Raymond Robinson, said: “Keepers noticed signs of labour and were onsite when Daisy gave birth on a Sunday evening. 

"The calf and mum have been spending some time inside together to bond but are now starting to venture outside with the rest of the herd. 

"We are proud to be Northern Ireland’s only zoo and it has long been a tradition that giraffe calves born here are named after towns and villages in Northern Ireland and Ireland which begin with ‘Bally’.  We are delighted to announce that our little calf is a male and has been named Gilbert."

Mr Robinson that giving birth is particularly challenging for these long-necked creatures. "Giraffes give birth standing up and the front feet are delivered first, followed by the head, neck and shoulders. The calf falls more than five feet to the ground which doesn’t hurt but does cause the calf to take its first big breath. The calf is five to six feet in height at birth. It learns to stand within 30 minutes and can run just 10 hours after birth!”

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, is delighted with the newest member of the zoo family: “Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered of the giraffe subspecies. While giraffes inhabit savannas and grasslands across Africa.

"The Rothschild subspecies only exists in small numbers within protected areas in Kenya and northern Uganda.  In fact, some estimates suggest that less than 1,600 still remain in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss, factors which are pushing this iconic species ever closer to extinction. 

"We work collaboratively with zoos around the world and take part in a European breeding programme. Since we became home to the species in 1988, we have celebrated the arrival of 34 calves and we are delighted to welcome little Gilbert to the family.”

Visitors can see Gilbert and his herd at Belfast Zoo every day from 10am.  Last admission is at 5pm, animal houses close at 6pm and the zoo closes at 7pm.

For more information visit Belfast Zoo.

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