A foal born at Blackpool Zoo has been dubbed a miracle baby by keepers, as she is the first female Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra foal to be born in Britain in 16 years.
She was born at the zoo overnight on Wednesday, September 5, and is the only surviving female of the species born in the UK since 2002.
Mother Helene and father Fernando are the most established breeding pair in the country and have resided in Blackpool since 2008 and 2009 respectively.
The foal has been named Wakanda by keepers, a fictional country in Sub-Saharan Africa and created by Marvel Comics that is home to Black Panther. She can be seen, along with her parents and brother, in the zoo’s Zebra paddock.
Her arrival is critical to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme. The international studbook for Hartmann’s mountain Zebras listed the total population in 2011 at about 8300, with 177 in captivity, including 11 animals across four British zoos.
Assistant head keeper Johnpaul Houston was the first to see Wakanda when he arrived at the zoo on September 6. The adorable new arrival was discovered by assistant head keeper Johnpaul Houston after he arrived for work on Thursday, September 6.
“We knew that Helene was pregnant but with stillbirth rates high amongst this species we never quite know if the pregnancy will result in a healthy foal … so imagine my joy when I first saw this gorgeous little one contentedly feeding from mum on a rainy September morning!” Houston said.
“Of course, once we established that the youngster was healthy the wait was on to see if we had a girl or boy … and it wasn’t long before we could confirm the news we had all been waiting for – a baby girl!
“Helene is an experienced mother and is doing an incredible job of looking after her healthy, beautiful foal. She is a massive cause for celebration as she is the only surviving female foal born in the UK since 2002.
“After a fantastic summer here at Blackpool Zoo this momentous birth means we have all ended the season on a huge high.“
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008 lists Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras as vulnerable.
Current studies indicate that this number could decline by more than 10 per cent in the next 25 years due to an increase in hunting and loss of natural habitat to agriculture.
Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras are native to Namibia and most commonly found in the extremely harsh environmental conditions of the Kunene Region in the North West.