29 Dec 2016
A lofty new arrival! Our keepers are celebrating “the best Christmas gift they could have wished for” following the birth of a rare Rothschild’s giraffe calf.

The six-feet-tall youngster, which is yet to be sexed or named, arrived to first time mum Tula and dad Meru at around 7am and was up on its feet just minutes later.

Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe and one of the world’s most at risk mammals. Recent estimates suggest that less than 1,600 individuals remain in the wild, primarily as a result of poaching and habitat loss.

Sarah Roffe, team manager of giraffes, said:

Rothschild’s giraffes are highly threatened and so the arrival of a new calf is a major cause for celebration. It really is the best Christmas gift we could have ever have wished for.

Shortly after being born, the calf was up on its feet within minutes, which was really pleasing to see. When it gets a little more used to its long legs it will be introduced to the rest of the herd but, for now, it’s important that mum and calf spend a few days together striking up those early bonds.

This iconic species is often overlooked in Africa and, sadly some populations like the Rothschild’s giraffes are experiencing a silent extinction. They are very much under threat in the wild, so it’s vital that our new calf helps us to throw a spotlight on this amazing species. Hopefully, our not-so-little arrival can generate more awareness of the huge pressures that giraffes face in the wild.

Giraffes overall have recently been recognised as facing extinction for the very first time. In the last 45 years the population of the Rothchild’s giraffes in Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP) in Uganda – where they were once found in large numbers – has reduced by over 90%. A huge part of its decline was due to poaching in the 1990’s and since then the population has failed to bounce back as habitat loss continues to threaten their survival.

Earlier this year our giraffe experts travelled to Uganda and South Africa to help conserve giraffes in the wild. Working with project partners in Uganda – The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) – our team helped conduct the first ever census on the Rothschild’s giraffe in an attempt to better understand why the population in the national park is not increasing.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, added:

Zoo staff have been out to Africa to lend their expertise and know-how to extremely important projects which are aiming to improve the outlook for the species. Initiatives like this really show the role that modern zoos play in animal conservation and it will give us a better understanding of how we can help protect the species and its future.