‘Miracle’ zebra foal boost to endangered breed

The birth of a rare zebra at a British zoo has been described as a “miracle” by staff and academics.

The healthy filly is the only surviving Hartmann’s mountain zebra female foal to be born in the UK since 2002.

She is also the sole healthy foal of either gender to be survive since her brother Jabali was born in 2015.

The filly, named Wakanda after a fictional country in the Marvel comics, was born overnight at Blackpool Zoo on 5 September.

Her arrival is crucial to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme as there are only 9,000 individuals left in the wild and 235 in captivity. Of these, 11 are housed in four zoos across the UK.

Her dam Helene and sire Fernado are the most established breeding pair in the country.

Assistant head keeper Johnpaul Houston discovered the newborn foal when he arrived for work on 6 September.

“We knew Helene was pregnant but with stillbirth rates high in this species we never quite know if the pregnancy will result in a healthy foal,” he said.

“So imagine my joy when I first saw this gorgeous little one contently feeding from Mum on a rainy September morning.

“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!”

He added Helene is an experienced mother and is doing an “incredible job” of looking after the filly.

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“[Wakanda] is a massive cause for celebration as she is the only surviving female foal born in the UK since 2002,” said Mr Houston.

“After a fantastic summer here at Blackpool Zoo this momentous birth means we have all ended the season on a huge high.”

Hartmann’s mountain zebras are native to Namibia and are most commonly found in the Kunene region in the northwest of the country, which experiences harsh environmental conditions.

Studies indicate that numbers could decline by more than 10% in the next 25 years due to increased hunting and loss of habitat to agriculture.

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