Belfast Zoo is celebrating endangered species day (Friday, May 19) with the arrival of a Rothschild’s giraffe calf.
The day is aimed at recognising the conservation efforts to protect the wildlife and habitats of the world and the latest addition to Belfast’s herd, Gilbert, was born to mother, Daisy and father, Finn, on May 7 after a 15-month pregnancy.
Zoo curator, Raymond Robinson, said: “Keepers noticed signs of labour and were onsite when Daisy gave birth on Sunday evening. The calf and mum have been spending some time inside together to bond but are now starting to venture outside with the rest of the herd.
"We are proud to be Northern Ireland’s only zoo and it has long been a tradition that giraffe calves born here are named after towns and villages north and south which begin with ‘Bally’. We are delighted to announce that our little calf is a male and has been named Gilbert!
"Giraffes give birth standing up and the front feet are delivered first, followed by the head, neck and shoulders. The calf falls more than five feet to the ground which doesn’t hurt but does cause the calf to take its first big breath. The calf is five to six feet in height at birth, learns to stand within 30 minutes and can run just 10 hours after birth!”
Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, is delighted with the newest member of the zoo family: “Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered of the giraffe subspecies. While giraffes inhabit savannahs and grasslands across Africa, the Rothschild subspecies only exists in small numbers within protected areas in Kenya and northern Uganda. In fact, some estimates suggest that less than 1600 still remain in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss, factors which are pushing this iconic species ever closer to extinction.
"We work collaboratively with zoos around the world and take part in a European breeding programme. Since we became home to the species in 1988, we have celebrated the arrival of 34 calves and we are delighted to welcome little Gilbert to the family!”
Visitors can see Gilbert and his herd at Belfast Zoo every day from 10am. Last admission is at 5pm, animal houses close at 6pm and the zoo closes at 7pm.