ZEBRAS at Blackpool Zoo have certainly earned their stripes – bringing a very special bundle of joy into the world.
The three week-old baby, a Hartmann Mountain Zebra, born to proud parents Fernando and Helene in the zebra enclosure, is the first to be born in the UK in nine years.
And grateful keepers have named the adorable foal, whose species is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Tebogo – or “we are thankful”.
Sofie Haugaard, Blackpool Zoo’s senior large mammal keeper, said: “We were delighted when we confirmed that our male zebra Fernando had successfully mated with Helene and that she was expecting a foal.
“Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra births are extremely rare and it is fantastic to know that we have broken a nine year absence of new babies in the UK.
“Now that Helene and Fernando are accomplished parents we are hoping for the pitter patter of more tiny hooves in the future.”
The main threats to the species in its native lands of Angola, Namibia and South Africa, are from loss of habitat to agriculture, competition with domestic livestock, and hunting.
Tebogo is also the first of his species to arrive in the whole of Europe in 2011, with just 12 born around the globe in 2010.
Tanya Langenhorst, European breeding programme co-ordinator, who closely monitored Helene throughout her 12 month pregnancy, added: “The birth of this foal is hugely important and wonderful news for the breeding programme and Blackpool Zoo.
“It adds not only another foal, but two more proven breeders to the European population.”
Tebogo was standing, and within hours, suckling.
William Ellison, four, from Hambleton, is a season pass holder and visited last week with his sister Millie, mum Kate and dad Dave.
He said: “I take a cuddly zebra to bed every night so it was exciting to see a real baby zebra.
“I want to come back lots and see him.”