It’s a very special occasion this week for our tallest residents.
One of our youngest Rothschild’s giraffes, Brad, has just celebrated his first birthday! As giraffes grow extremely quickly, doubling in size in their first year, Brad looks very different now compared to last winter.
His little sister Pixie is only three months younger but is rapidly catching up!
Brad’s birth was excellent news for us at the zoo. The Rothschild’s giraffe, one of nine giraffe subspecies, is also one of the most endangered with fewer than 700 individuals left in the wild.
Brad, like his family, is part of an international breeding programme that is trying to boost the numbers of giraffes in captivity, with the eventual aim of reintroducing them to the wild.
However, simply breeding them isn’t quite enough. To try to maximise the amount of genetic diversity in captive populations, animals must be regularly moved between zoos. This is a complicated undertaking considering that a single person is responsible for all the movements of each species! In this case, they are based at the Gelsenkirchen zoo in Germany. For the same reason, Brad’s brother Roofus was moved to West Midlands Safari Park just before Christmas.
Each subspecies of giraffe has its own unique characteristics, and you can tell them apart fairly easily by looking at their markings. We have two groups of giraffes at the zoo, our breeding group of Rothschild’s, and a group of hybrids (basically a mixture of subspecies!). If you look closely, you may notice that the hybrids have larger, brown spots separated by bright white lines, whereas the Rothschild’s giraffes have smaller, more jagged spots with creamier lines separating them.
Rothschild’s giraffes are also taller than many of the other subspecies, with our breeding male George being a similar height to a double decker bus!
Why not come along to the zoo to see if you can tell which ones are which?