Birth of female zebra foal at Blackpool Zoo is a ‘miracle’ for vulnerable species

Wakanda and her mum Helene at Blackpool Zoo
Wakanda and her mum Helene at Blackpool Zoo
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The birth of the UK’s only current female Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra foal at Blackpool Zoo has been described as a “miracle for the vulnerable species”.

Wakanda’s arrival is said to be critical to a European breeding programme, with just 9,000 zebras of that type left in the wild.

She is the only surviving female born in the UK since 2002, and the first surviving foal of either gender since ‘15 when her brother Jabali was born. She was named after the fictional African nation, home to Black Panther, in the Marvel films and comics.

Assistant headkeeper Johnpaul Houston said: “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.

“Firstly, we established that the youngster was healthy and it wasn’t long before we could confirm the news we had all been waiting for – a baby girl!”

Wakanda was born last Wednesday and her mum Helene is “doing an incredible job of looking after” her, Mr Houston added.

Helene and male zebra Fernando, who have been at the East Park Drive attraction since 2008 and 2009 respectively, are now the most established breeding part in the country.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008 lists Hartmann’s mountain zebras as ‘vulnerable’, and current studies indicate their number may drop by more than 10 per cent over the next quarter century due to hunting and a loss of habitat to farming.

The species is native to Namibia and most commonly found in the extremely harsh conditions of the Kunene Region in the north west.