— Chester Zoo (@chesterzoo) August 4, 2015
New giraffe calf Kidepo – the third of his species to be born at Chester Zoo in just eight months – has stepped out for the very first time.
The leggy newcomer strode into the sunshine with mum Orla, dad Meru and the rest of the herd for his first outdoor appearance since arriving on Thursday 23 July.
Kidepo is the most recent addition to the ‘baby boom’ of rare Rothschilds’s giraffes at the zoo, following on from the births of Zahra in December 2014 and Sanyu in June. Their arrivals have given an important boost to the European-wide breeding programme for the species, which is classed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Sarah Roffe, team manager of the giraffes, said:
It’ll take Kidepo a little bit of time to get used to his long legs but he already seems confident and full of personality and he’s doing very well so far. We’re really pleased with how he has taken to the rest of the herd and with how the herd has quickly taken to having him around.
With three endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calves born here in a short space of time, it’s a very busy period for the zookeepers. But we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Hopefully our new trio can bring some much-needed attention to the species and put a spotlight on the huge pressures that Rothschild’s giraffes have come under in the wild, as well as help raise awareness of the ever-growing need for conservation projects.
Once wide-ranging across Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, the Rothschild’s giraffe has been almost totally eliminated as a result of habitat loss and hunting for their meat and now only survives in small, isolated populations. Current research suggests that fewer than 1,100 are now left in the wild – making them one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe in the world.
As well its successful breeding programme, Chester Zoo also supports vital projects in the wild – including the first ever scientific review of the species – with the aim of developing a long-term conservation strategy for the animals in Africa.
Rothschild’s giraffe facts
- Mum Orla was born on 17/03/2008 and is seven years old.
- Dad is five-years-old Meru, born 03/04/2010
- Kidepo was born at around 6:50am on 23/07/2015. She is Orla’s second calf. Her first was Millie, who was born at Chester Zoo on 02/03/2013
- Rothschild’s giraffe are named after zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of the National History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire
- They are also known as the baringo or Ugandan giraffe
- The species is identified by its broader dividing white lines and has no spots beneath the knees
- Giraffe population figures are declining across Africa
- Rothschild’s giraffes are classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with current population estimates suggesting less than 1,100 remain in the wild
- With less than 1,100 individuals remaining in the wild the Rothschild’s giraffe is more endangered than species such as African elephants and giant pandas
- Roughly one-third of the surviving population of Rothschild’s giraffes live in zoos where carefully co-ordinated breeding programmes are creating a safety-net population for the species
- Once wide-ranging across Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, the Rothschild’s giraffe has been almost totally eliminated from much of its former range and now only survives in a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda
- The main threat to the species now is loss of habitat and poaching for meat and hides
- In the past, giraffes were hunted for their tails, which were used as good-luck charms, sewing thread and even fly swats
- The species is one of the most endangered of the nine sub-species of giraffe