17 Dec 2014
Lofty debut: Visitors to Chester Zoo are getting their first glimpse of a rare baby giraffe born just before Christmas. Keepers have named the female Rothschild’s giraffe calf – one of the world’s most endangered subspecies – Zahra, which means ‘flower’ in Swahili.


Rothschild’s are one of the world’s most endangered subspecies, with recent estimates suggesting less than 1,100 are left in the wild. The 6ft (1.8m) calf was born in the lead up to Christmas to mum Aiofe and dad Meru. Keepers have named their lanky new arrival Zahra, meaning ‘flower’ in Swahili. Curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, Tim Rowlands, said:

“Giraffes give birth standing up and the calves fall about 6ft – so they really do come down to Earth with a bump. But we’re happy to report that our new, not-so-little, youngster is doing well and is already confident on her long legs.“Everyone at the zoo is thrilled with Zahra and she has really added to our Christmas and New Year celebrations.”

The zoo now has a herd of eight Rothschild giraffes.  Mr Rowlands added:

“Whilst it’s great that we have a nice herd here, in the wild this species really is under threat. Numbers are declining at a worrying rate due to a massive upsurge in poaching for their meat.“So when people come here and see the likes of Zahra and see what magnificent animals Rothschild’s giraffes are, we really want them to stop and think about the plight of the species in the wild. Rothschild’s giraffes are of high conservation priority and the need for a concerted conservation effort has never been more urgent.”

On top of its successful breeding record, Chester Zoo has supported important projects in the wild, including the first ever scientific review of the Rothschild’s giraffe. Its aim is to develop a long-term conservation strategy for the species in Africa.


Rothschild giraffe facts

  • Mum Aiofe was born on 1 March 1998. She is 16 years old
  • Dad is called Meru
  • The baby – a female named Zahra – was born at around 3am on Dec 22. She is Aiofe’s second calf.
  • Zahra means ‘flower’ in Swahili
  • 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
  • Chester Zoo now has eight Rothschild giraffes – Meru, Aoife, Dagma, Orla, Tula, Kanzi, Millie and Zahra