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Newborn zebra brings ray of Hope as world battles health crisis

A newborn zebra has brought joy at the “perfect time”.

Five-year-old Polly gave birth to a filly, Hope, on 19 March at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol.

Head keeper Emma Ogborne told H&H both Polly and Hope, who are Grant’s zebras – a subspecies of the plains zebra – are healthy and doing well.

“Polly has done a brilliant job, she basically did everything herself and when we arrived in the morning we had a new foal,” she said.

“They are kept in a family herd with dad Zebedee, Polly’s half-sister Nola and her foal Sprout who was born on 29 November last year. Because they’re a family unit they look out for each other and stick together.”

Emma said the herd is kept in the giraffe enclosure.

“They also share the enclosure with ostriches and have full-time access to grazing,” she said.

“Zebras are not currently considered endangered but their numbers are declining in the wild – and Grant’s zebras are registered as near-threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list. By keeping them in zoos we can educate people on how they interact and monitor numbers. We have an open breeding programme and they breed every two years.”

Emma said Hope has been enjoying the sunshine and struck up a bond with Sprout.

“Hope is a typical baby at the moment, she’s very sleepy and enjoys having a rest in the sun. She’s been interacting with Sprout and they’ve been showing a lot of interest in each other,” she said.

“We named her Hope because of the difficult time everyone is currently going through at the moment. She came at the perfect time to cheer everybody up and give people hope.”

Across the pond, Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, also welcomed a striped foal on 21 March. Hartmann’s zebra Heidi gave birth to the filly, who is yet to be named.

The foal marked the third zebra birth at the park, which is closed to the public owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Mark Penning, vice-president for animals, science and environment at Disney Parks, said the foal was born as part of the species survival plan programme, which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and ensures responsible breeding and genetic diversity of thousands of species of animals.

“Hartmann’s mountain zebras are found in sub-Saharan Africa and are a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and hunting,” said Dr Penning.

“The foal is about 65 pounds and is quite strong – she was standing within 30 minutes of birth. Already very active and curious, this little lady is much like her mother and has very long legs. Heidi is showing she’s a natural at parenting.”

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