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Newborn zebra foal delighting zoo staff with his ‘zoomies’

A newborn zebra foal is delighting staff at a US zoo with his “adorable” antics.

Zoo Knoxville, Tennessee, welcomed the foal, who is yet to be named, on 23 December to five-year-old Hartmann’s mountain zebras Die Toekoms, which means “the future” in Afrikaans, and Lydia. The foal is a first for the zoo, which also has five-year-old female Wiley in its herd.

Credit: Amy Smotherman Burgess

Curator Petty Grieve told H&H the staff were ‘thrilled’ about their new arrival, who was bred as part of a breeding programme under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help the endangered species.

“Each species that is endangered or vulnerable has a committee that monitors the genetics and makes breeding recommendations and we work with the Hartmann’s mountain zebra survival plan,” she said.

“There are around 250,000 Plains zebras in Africa, but only estimated to be around 8,000 Hartmann’s so we’re focused on trying to help that species.”

Petty said zebras traditionally have a herd hierarchy, and before her pregnancy Lydia had been the lowest ranked female.

“In the wild the typical dynamic is one male with around eight females,” she said. “Since the foal was born Lydia’s status has elevated; babies are very coveted which makes them very important.

“Lydia has always been quite shy but since having her baby she has come out of her shell a little bit so that’s been interesting to see.”

Petty said the zoo is ‘overjoyed’ with the foal.

“While we thought Lydia was probably pregnant due to her belly getting bigger, I didn’t think she was close to full term so we were a little surprised when he showed up. We thought it was going to be in February or March,” she said.

“I’m hoping Wiley is pregnant or will become pregnant soon. We are looking at the breeding programme figuring out what our new foal’s life plan will be. If there is another institution looking to join the Hartmann’s zebra programme he may go to another zoo in a couple of years, or he might stay with us longer.”

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The foal has started enjoying time outdoors on the zoo’s habitat entertaining staff and visitors.

“The baby is so fun. He gets the zoomies where he runs around really quick all excited,” said Petty. “He’s learning what life is about and trying to mimic his mom eating grass and hay.

“We also welcomed a baby giraffe on 24 December. In spring the giraffes and zebras share the same habitat so we’re going to have two little babies out which will be adorable. I’m really curious to see how much the babies will interact because they’ll be going through the same milestones at the same time.”

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