In Pictures: Baby giraffe born in front of surprised visitors at Belfast Zoo

Visitors got a surprise at Belfast Zoo when they witnessed the birth of an endangered Rothschild’s giraffe calf.

The latest arrival to the herd was born to mother, Neja and father, Finn on April 5.

After a gestation period of approximately 15 months, keepers noticed that Neja was displaying signs of labour on Tuesday morning.

They carefully monitored the situation and eventually Neja gave birth to a healthy calf, in the outdoor area, in front of delighted visitors!

Senior keeper, Peter Cross, said: “We were onsite throughout the birth to monitor the situation and to ensure that everything went smoothly. Neja gave birth outdoors with the rest of the herd and to the delight of many zoo visitors, who got to witness the event. “Giraffes give birth standing up and the calf falls more than five feet to the ground. The calf learns to stand within 30 minutes after birth and can run just 10 hours later.

“Since the birth, we have been giving mother and calf time to bond, so we have not yet had the chance to find out what sex the latest arrival is.

“Belfast Zoo first became home to giraffe in 1988 and this is the 35th calf to be born at Cave Hill and Neja and Finn’s third calf, showing the success of our conservation efforts.”

Giraffes are one of the world’s most iconic and loved animals but they are facing increasing threats in the wild due to poaching and habitat destruction. It is estimated that giraffe populations have decreased by 40% in just 15 years.

In fact, Rothschild’s giraffe are one of the most endangered of the nine subspecies of giraffe and Belfast Zoo’s herd is part of a European breeding programme. With research showing that there may be as few as 2500 mature Rothschild’s giraffes left in the wild, the subspecies is on the brink of becoming ‘critically endangered’ and the conservation role of zoos is becoming even more critical.