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Baby animals at Chester Zoo are drawing in the crowds

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 April 2015

Giiraffe calf Zahra with Mum Aoife

Giiraffe calf Zahra with Mum Aoife

Steve Rawlins

New and very cute faces at Chester Zoo are not only keeping visitor numbers up, their births are part of a vital plan to prevent the extinction of important species

The tall guy: giraffe calf Zahra jumps for joyThe tall guy: giraffe calf Zahra jumps for joy

This spring, Chester Zoo has welcomed a number of very special babies into the world, helping the global battle against their species’ extinction.

Zahra, the Rothschild’s giraffe, a trio of Sumatran tiger cubs and Fara the black rhino have been entertaining visitors, while playing their part in a worldwide effort to ensure their species flourish in captivity.

Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said: ‘These special new-borns have not arrived by magic - an awful lot of work has gone into breeding these critically endangered species.

‘Careful planning, excellent husbandry, expert keeping staff, top facilities, a detailed animal nutrition programme and scientific underpinning are factors that have all come together to achieve our latest breeding bonanza.’

Aah! Fara, the black rhino calf born at Chester ZooAah! Fara, the black rhino calf born at Chester Zoo

Starting life in 1931, Chester Zoo has become one of the world’s top 15 zoos with international acclaim for its conservation work.

The zoo’s colourful history was recently documented in ‘Our Zoo’ on BBC TV. The series highlighted founder George Mottershead’s pledge to create ‘a zoo without bars’, a sentiment which still rings true today, with over 400 different species housed in its 110 acres.

With over a third of all animal and plant species on earth heading for extinction by the end of this century, Chester Zoo, along with its international partners, is heavily involved in conservation and research projects across the globe.

From field work, which sees zoo professionals and conservation experts work with communities to protect species in the wild, to research and development of key measures to help an endangered species begin to recover, Chester Zoo is at the forefront of conservation work around the world. Primarily funded through the 1.4 million zoo visitors each year, a vital part of the work that takes place on Cheshire soil are the conservation breeding programmes which resulted in the four new arrivals.

Two's company: Sumatran tiger cubs at Chester Zoo are pulling in the crowdsTwo's company: Sumatran tiger cubs at Chester Zoo are pulling in the crowds

Zahra, the Rothschild’s giraffe calf, whose name means flower in Swahili, was born on December 23rd 2014 to proud parents Aoife and Meru. With only an estimated 1100 Rothschild’s giraffes left in the wild, this birth is a vital step towards strengthening the population of these creatures.

Giraffe team manager, Sarah Roffe, said: ‘We weigh Zahra twice a week so that we can closely monitor her growth and development. She was born weighing 59kg and now she’s up to 114kg, so she’s doing really, really well.

‘Zahra’s mum Aoife has really good maternal instincts and already we can see her characteristics in Zahra - attitude and a little bit of stubbornness! She’s often seen running around the paddock, enjoying chasing birds and is always the last one to return to the house in the evening.’

The Sumatran tiger cubs were welcomed into the world on New Year’s Day. Part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, these tiger cubs are an important step forward in the fight to preserve what the Union for the Conservation of Nature class as a ‘critically endangered species’.

Although the smallest of all tiger species, the new cubs are keeping zoo staff busy.

Team Manager of Carnivores, Lucy Manning said: ‘All the cubs are very vocal and can be heard squawking loudly when they are up and about. The cubs appear very confident, often exploring by themselves. They have even started to master climbing. Now that they’re over two months old, mum Kirana spends much less time with them in the den. She’s doing a great job looking after all three cubs and dad Fabi is being very tolerant!’

The latest addition to the Chester zoo family is Fara, the Eastern Black Rhino, whose birth was captured on film. Another critically endangered species, black rhino numbers in Kenya plummeted from 20,000 to 597 in 2010 and Chester Zoo is one of the leading lights in the battle to restore rhino numbers in their natural habitats.

A ground-breaking breeding programme, which monitored female rhino hormones resulted in the birth of little Fara whose keepers are certain will become a firm favourite with visitors.

Curator of Mammals, Tim Rowlands said: ‘Our new babies are all superb ambassadors for their species, which face very uncertain futures in the wild. When people come to the zoo and see how stunning they are, we hope they really take an interest in their plight and feel compelled to do something to help.’

DID YOU KNOW...?

Chester Zoo officially opened on June 10th 1931 and was entirely staffed by the Mottershead family. George was the Directory-Secretary, his wife Elizabeth managed catering, whilst daughter June was the zoo’s first curator.

During the war, the Mottersheads ran an ‘adopt an animal’ scheme, the first in the UK, which meant the animals survived the fighting and became a popular attraction for evacuees and local families.

In 1933 Thomas the Tapir escaped, making his home in a nearby workman’s cottage where he was found asleep, tucked up in the spare bedroom!

The world’s tallest animal arrived at Chester Zoo in 1960. George, the Masai bull Giraffe stood at slightly less than 20 feet high. At such a height, he would spend his days stealing hats off visitors’ heads as they approached the Giraffe House.

In June 2015, Chester Zoo’s brand new Islands project, the biggest UK zoo development, will open its doors to visitors, with a unique expedition to discover six South East Asian island habitats.

Chester Zoo,

Upton-by-Chester,

Cheshire,

CH2 1EU.

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