Paignton Zoo celebrates rare Rothschild's giraffe birth

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Media captionThe new arrival has been a hit with visitors at the zoo

A rare Rothschild's giraffe has been born at Paignton Zoo in Devon.

Rothschild's are one of the most endangered subspecies, with only a few hundred left in the wild.

The 6ft (1.8m) calf was born on Tuesday. It has not been named, as keepers do not yet know if it is a male or female.

Paignton Zoo, which is part of the European Endangered Species Programme, has three adult Rothschild's and three juveniles, including the new arrival.

"There is just nothing as cute and adorable as a gangly baby giraffe," zoo spokesman Phil Knowling told BBC News.

"This one is gorgeous and the keepers think it might be a boy, although that's not confirmed yet."

In 2006, a fire at the zoo killed two giraffes, including a mother and her week-old calf. Last year, vets had to put Kitto the calf to sleep after he was rejected by his mother and developed breathing problems.

'Cautiously optimistic'

"This shows the ups and downs of working here - particularly with the endangered animals," Mr Knowling said

"You have wonderful moments when mum and baby do fine and you feel you're really making a difference, but sadly you also have dreadful moments - and for me that fire was one of my darkest moments."

The birth of the new calf was "great news" for the zoo, but Mr Knowling said the "cautiously optimistic" keepers would continue to monitor mother and calf for the first critical seven to 10 days.

"They may look fragile, but these giraffes are tough little cookies and this one's looking good," Mr Knowling added.

After a gestation period of between 400 and 460 days, giraffes give birth standing up and the fall - about 6ft (1.8m) breaks the umbilical cord.

"It's a hard way to start," Neil Bemment, the zoo's curator of mammals, said.

Rothschild's are native to Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.

Poaching and habitat loss have contributed to the animals' decline.

According to the Rothschild's Giraffe Project, there are now fewer than 700 of the animals remaining in the wild.

Image caption The giraffe will not be named until keepers know whether it is a male or female
Image caption The calf starts life with a 6ft fall to the ground, which breaks the umbilical cord
Image caption There are only a few hundred of the Rothschild's giraffes left in the wild

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