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Zoo mourns death of giraffe calf

Published 16/04/2015

A Rothschild's giraffe calf born at Belfast Zoo has died of a infection contracted at birth (Belfast Zoo/PA)
A Rothschild's giraffe calf born at Belfast Zoo has died of a infection contracted at birth (Belfast Zoo/PA)

A Rothschild's giraffe calf born at Belfast Zoo on Easter Sunday has died.

It is understood the calf succumbed to an infection contracted at birth.

Staff at the zoo said they were shocked and saddened by the death which was described as a "huge loss".

Zoo curator Alyn Cairns said: "This was a shock to all of us. To say we are devastated by this loss would be an understatement."

The male 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.

Mr Cairns said: "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 and was struggling to find Sandy's milk.

"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."

Jersey cow milk was obtained from Clandeboye Estate in Co Down and staff began to hand rear the calf .

However, he died on Sunday with zookeepers and a vet in attendance.

Vet Michael Griffith said: "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 the death was a blow to the European breeding programme.

He 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."

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