As keepers watched a giraffe give birth, they knew they were privileged to witness the moment. So, as the baby dangled from its mother, they couldn’t wait for her to complete the delivery. However, the baby then crashed to the floor, landing on its head.
The Rothschild’s giraffe first earned its name when it was discovered by zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild. The aristocratic Englishman and his family discovered the animal during an expedition to East Africa more than 100 years ago.
At the time, Rothschild noted that this giraffe had a much less “jagged” print than others examples of the species. Furthermore, in terms of coloring, they tended to be quite light. However, their most distinguishing characteristic is their markings, which end at their knees. As a result, they look like they’re sporting cream stockings.
When Rothschild first gave this sub-species of giraffe its name, there were many across Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. However, they have since become extinct in Sudan and populations are in decline in Uganda and Kenya. As a result, the future of Rothschild’s giraffe is in doubt.
Some of the threats the animals face include habitat loss and poaching. In fact, recent estimates put the population of the Rothschild’s giraffe as low as 670. Consequently, conservation groups have said that the species is vulnerable to extinction.
As a result, there has been a conscious effort to bolster Rothschild’s giraffe numbers before it’s too late. Conservation efforts focus primarily on education and captive breeding programs. One organization involved in these efforts is the LEO Zoological Conservation Center.
Based in Greenwich, Connecticut, the center specializes in the breeding of rare or endangered animals. It also allows visitors, in the hope of inspiring people to take conservation more seriously. So, guests can interact with some of the world’s most endangered wildlife.
In 2012 the LEO Zoological Conservation Center was home to a female Rothschild’s giraffe called Petal. What’s more, it was then that staff discovered she was expecting a calf. To make things even more exciting, her baby would go down in the center’s history books.
“This giraffe will be the first to calf at our conservation center,” LEO founder Marcella Leone told Greenwich Time. “It’s a huge deal, especially because there are so few of them in the world.”
So, in March 2013 everyone involved in Petal’s pregnancy was excited that it was time for her to give birth. Like most Rothschild’s giraffes, her gestation period was 15 months. As a result, the delivery felt like it was a long time coming.
To mark the momentous occasion, staff at the conservation center decided to film the birth. Moreover, the resulting footage was nothing short of incredible. Indeed, many thousands of people have since watched it on YouTube.
The video opens with Petal standing in her enclosure. It’s clear to see that she has already started the birthing process and two little legs are already emerging from the mom. Slowly, more of the baby giraffe appears and the delivery appears to be imminent.
Petal subsequently paces around her pen as her labor continues. Soon, her calf’s head and long neck are out in the open. Then, without warning, the baby is born, crashing to floor with an almighty thud.
To the untrained eye, the fall appears to be a bad one. Indeed, the calf lands head-first, causing its neck to bend over beneath its body. For a few heart-stopping moments, it looks like the baby has not survived its horrific descent. However, it then kicks out one of its lanky legs.
With the baby alive and breathing, Petal begins to clean her with her tongue. What’s more, within half-an-hour of her eye-watering fall, the calf was as right as rain. In fact, she was already standing up.
Although the calf’s drop to the ground looked excruciating, it’s actually part of the natural birth process for giraffes. Indeed, during their first moments of life, all giraffes will endure a 6-foot drop before landing headfirst.
Moreover, this serves a very important purpose, breaking the amniotic sac and cutting the umbilical cord. Furthermore, the force of the fall encourages the calf to take its first breaths. In turn, this speeds up the time it takes for the giraffe to become active.
Unsurprisingly, the birth of a rare Rothschild’s giraffe created a lot of interest in the LEO Zoological Conservation Center. So, they decided to launch a competition to name the calf. In the end, the moniker “Sandy Hope” won. The name was a tribute to 26 people who died in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“[Sandy Hope has] a real significance,’’ Leone explained to Today. “We named her for the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy that happened right here in our state. So, it’s a really, really meaningful name and that’s why we had to attach the middle name ‘Hope’ with it.’’
Moreover, not only did little Sandy provide hope for her state, but she also gave hope for the future of her species. “Initiatives like this really show the role that modern zoos play in animal conservation,” Tim Rowlands at Chester Zoo said. “It will give us a better understanding of how we can help protect the species and its future.”