Les Mathes, France — A baby zebra was born in a French zoo in South-western France as a result of a breeding program aimed at protecting endangered species.

Named Aramis, and born to Viviana, the foal takes its first steps and is seen trotting behind the mother in the video. The birth took place at the Palmyre Zoo, in the Charente-Maritime department region.

Florence Perroux, 47, in an interview with RealPress, said that the foal was born on Dec 15. A zookeeper named the baby zebra. However, they held off from announcing the news of the birth until New Year’s Eve to ensure the mother does not reject its newborn. As per an article published by the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at the Colorado State University, foal rejection is common and mainly manifests itself when the mare disallows its young one to nurse or avoids it altogether. “The third and most serious type of rejection is where the mare shows aggression towards the foal. Regardless of the type of rejection, it is essential to intervene if the foal is at risk,” it said.

“We also wanted to give people some good news at the end of what had been a difficult year for many,” said Perroux.

The zoo is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), which comprises zoos all over Europe that are committed to participating in special breeding programs to protect species on the verge of extinction.

Thus, Aramis, who Perroux could not confirm was named after the character from The Three Musketeers, was born to zoo native Viviana and father Kosa, who came from another zoo in the breeding program in the Netherlands. He had previously spent time making baby zebras in Berlin.

The foal is a Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. According to the zoo, there are less than 2,000 zebras belonging to this species left in the wild. Perroux confirmed that the Palmyre Zoo currently has six of these zebras, four females, along with their new, 10-year-old adult male Kosa, who arrived in France in 2019, and now the young foal, Aramis.

Grevy’s zebra foal Aramis, standing next to his mother. (Florence Perroux, Zoo de La Palmyre/Real Press)

The species is primarily found in Ethiopia and Kenya and had a count of 15,000 back in 1970. While the immediate goal is to send members of the species to others zoos as soon as they reach sexual maturity, according to Perroux, the long-term goal is to be able to reintroduce them into the wild. A report titled ‘Is the endangered Grevy’s zebra threatened by hybridization?’ by Animal Conservation, a forum for publication of peer-reviewed research in conservation, makes a case for hybridization of Grevy’s Zebra. “Hybridization is unlikely to dilute the Grevy’s zebra gene pool in the short term. As a conservation concern, hybridization is secondary to more direct causes of Grevy’s zebra declines,” it said.

Grevy’s zebra foal Aramis, standing next to his mother. (Florence Perroux, Zoo de La Palmyre/Real Press)

The reason for their being endangered, like several other fauna species, Perroux said, is indiscriminate human activity. More and more of their habitat is being infringed upon by cattle breeders, she added, and this is particularly threatening to this species, because the cattle often “monopolize the waterholes that the zebras rely on, especially mothers with their young. This species of zebra needs a lot of water.”

Besides being a member of the EAZA, the Palmyre Zoo also supports 20 NGOs, many of them in Africa that help protect the threatened species. Despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing them to be closed much of last year, Perroux said that they have been able to maintain their financing of these NGOs. The zoo is currently home to over 1,600 animals, of 110 different species.

Aramis, Perroux said, will grow up at Palmyre Zoo before being sent to another zoo in a bid to perpetuate the species.

(Edited by Prachi Sibal and Shirish Vishnu Shinde.)

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