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Belfast Zoo staff devastated as baby giraffe dies

By Linda Stewart

Published 17/04/2015

The baby giraffe which died at Belfast Zoo just seven days after his birth
The baby giraffe which died at Belfast Zoo just seven days after his birth

A baby giraffe born at Belfast Zoo on Easter Sunday has died of an infection contracted at birth.

The male Rothschild's giraffe calf was born to mother Sandsteen and father Finn during the early hours of April 5 and was the 34th Rothchild's giraffe bred at the Cave Hill site.

Zoo curator Alyn Cairns said: "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. However, almost immediately after the birth, we noticed that the calf was not feeding. We gave the pair the opportunity to bond but as time continued we realised that it would be necessary for us to intervene and to provide support to both mum and calf."

Staff began to hand-rear the youngster, but he died on Sunday with zookeepers and a vet in attendance. Zoo manager Mark Challis said the death was a blow to the European breeding programme. "Rothschild's giraffe are one of the most endangered of the nine subspecies of giraffe," he said.

"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. 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."

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