A BABY giraffe was given a bumpy introduction to the world with a six-foot drop to the ground.
No wonder the dazed youngster looked a bit wobbly on his feet, but mum Orla was quickly on hand to tend to her new-born.
The amazing scenes were captured on CCTV cameras at Chester Zoo on Monday to the delight of the keepers.
They say Orla delivered her five-foot tall baby smoothly following a four-hour labour, bringing an end to her 15-month pregnancy.
Sarah Roffe, giraffe team manager, said: “Orla went into labour at about noon and, for a little while, we could just see two spindly legs poking out.
“She’s an experienced mum and a few hours later she delivered the calf safely onto soft straw as the rest of the herd, including her other young Kidepo and Millie, looked on.
“Although it might be quite a drop, and they may fall to the ground with a bit of a thud, it’s how giraffe calves arrive into the world and it stimulates them into taking their first breaths. That whole process, from a calf being born to it taking its very first steps, is an incredibly special thing to see.
“Those long legs take a little bit of getting used to but the new calf is doing ever so well, as is mum. She’s an excellent parent and is doing a fantastic job of nursing her new arrival.
“The world may be waiting for April the giraffe to have her calf over in America, but Orla has beaten her to it!”
The calf, which was yesterday confirmed to be a boy but has not yet been named, is the second Rothschild’s giraffe to be born at the zoo in the space of just four months, following the arrival of male Murchison on Boxing Day.
Conservationists at the zoo hope both arrivals will help to throw a spotlight on the plight of the endangered species and the threats it faces in the wild. Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the world’s rarest mammals and recent estimates suggest that fewer than 1,600 remain.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, said: “Poaching in the wild over the last few decades has led to a 90 per cent decline in Rothschild’s giraffe numbers. Despite ongoing conservation efforts, the species is really struggling to bounce back as the constant threat of habitat loss continues to push the last remaining population ever closer to extinction.
“Right now the zoo is working hard in Africa on a conservation action plan to ensure that populations don’t fall to an even more critical level. We’ve got to stand tall for these amazing animals.”
The zoo’s giraffe experts are part of an ongoing project in Uganda which is aimed at helping and preserving the Rothschild’s giraffe in the wild. The zoo’s team – working with project partner The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) – is working to better understand why one of the last remaining populations of Rothschild’s giraffes in Kidepo Valley national Park is not increasing.