3 Jan 2013

All images © Peter Byrne/Press Association

The Rothschild giraffe calf – the world’s most endangered sub-species of giraffe – was born to first-time mum Orla after a 14 ½ month pregnancy.

Despite being just a few days old, at six feet tall, the youngster – which our keepers have named Millie – is already towering over them.

Chester Zoo’s curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said:

“For a first time mum Orla is doing a superb job so far. She really does seem to be taking motherhood all in her rather long stride.

“Millie was up on her feet within just a few minutes of being born and she began suckling from mum not long after. Already she is strong and tall which is really pleasing.

“Rothschild giraffes are very, very rare indeed and so careful, managed breeding programmes in zoos and wildlife parks are vital for their long-term future. We’re therefore obviously delighted with our newcomer.”

According to conservationists there are now less than 670 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild, following the loss of their traditional habitat in their native Kenya and Uganda and their poaching for their meat. The species is the most endangered of the nine sub-species of giraffe.

As well as its breeding successes, we also supported important projects in the wild, including the first ever scientific review of the Rothschild giraffe with the aim of developing a long-term conservation strategy for the species in Africa.

Back at the zoo the new calf is the latest in a long list of endangered species to have been born in the last six months. Two endangered Asian elephants, two critically endangered black rhinos, two critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, an okapi and two giant otter pups, as well as Kanzi, another Rothschild giraffe, have all been part of the zoo’s recent baby boom.



Fast Facts 

• Mum Orla was born on March 17 2008. She is just over five years old • Dad is called Thorn • Baby was born in the early hours of Monday morning (March 25). She weighed 52kgs • The giraffes are known as Rothchild’s giraffe – named after zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, founder of the National History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire • The species is identified by its broader dividing white lines and has no spots beneath the knees • The animals are classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature • Giraffe population figures are declining across Africa; a recent survey estimated an 80% decline in the last ten years alone • 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