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Belfast Zoo's latest arrival learns to stand on own four feet... now all she needs is a name

By Linda Stewart

Published 15/04/2016

Visitors got a surprise at Belfast Zoo when they witnessed the birth of an endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calf to mum Neja and dad Finn
Visitors got a surprise at Belfast Zoo when they witnessed the birth of an endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calf to mum Neja and dad Finn
Visitors got a surprise at Belfast Zoo when they witnessed the birth of an endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calf to mum Neja and dad Finn
Visitors got a surprise at Belfast Zoo when they witnessed the birth of an endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calf to mum Neja and dad Finn
The giraffe calf soon after she was born

Belfast Zoo is calling on the public to help come up with a name for a baby Rothschild's giraffe that was born in front of excited visitors.

The latest addition to the giraffe herd was born to mum Neja and dad Finn on April 5 in front of a stunned crowd of onlookers.

Keepers did not know the sex of the baby giraffe for a while because it is important to allow mother and baby time to bond, but they have since discovered that the infant is female.

Now they are calling on members of the public to come up with a name for the baby giraffe via the website. It has become a tradition for giraffes at Belfast Zoo to be named after places that begin with Bally, so this calf will be a sister to Mena and Foyle.

Curator Alyn Cairns said: "Sometimes giraffes will take themselves away from the herd and want a bit of peace and quiet. We thought the mum was going to give birth over Easter Monday or Tuesday."

A new technique has been developed to allow zoo animals to give birth with the rest of the herd instead of being separated, and it proved to be a success.

"She gave birth outside and lots of the public witnessed this. It was very quick - about half an hour," Alyn said.

"When they used to be 'denned' away off on their own, there was some anxiety. But this time all the giraffes came to help and they all licked the calf, which stimulates the baby to get up quicker and it has more chance of survival."

The watching visitors were fascinated as Neja gave birth standing up, with her baby falling more than five feet to the ground.

Baby giraffes can run just 10 hours after birth.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see a giraffe giving birth and see the baby afterwards," Alyn said.

"It was very wibbly-wobbly, but within half an hour or 40 minutes the baby was running around."

With as few as 2,500 Rothschild's giraffes left in the wild, the subspecies is on the brink of becoming critically endangered.

The zoo is launching giraffe experiences every weekend between April and September, allowing visitors to spend 30 minutes behind the scenes and getting the chance to feed the giraffe herd.

Belfast Telegraph

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