From the fiercest to the gentlest, Longleat's animals tend their young
Longleat Safari Park is one of the UK's top family attractions and the first drive-through Safari Park ever created outside of Africa. Newborn animals enliven the safari park every spring as a result of Longleat's successful breeding programs. They'll grow up to live as happy and natural a life as is possible. Visitors are able to see mothers and young behaving as they would in the wild. A mark of Longleat's success, and part of what makes it so successful as a family attraction, is the number of babies born in the Safari Park every year.
Mother and baby giraffes - actually mother and giraffe calf - are popular sights at Longleat, where successful breeding program has gone on for many years.
Longleat's mother and baby giraffes are Rothschild giraffes. They live in a 60 acre enclosure, alongside the park's small herd of Grants zebra. It’s a convenient and natural living arrangement for them, matching giraffe and zebra behaviour in the wild where they are able to look out for each other. The giraffes' height and eyesight are complemented by the zebras’ acute hearing, protecting both from predators.
The folks at Longleat Safari Park have had a successful program of breeding and looking after giraffes for many years - the first twin baby giraffes in Europe were born at Longleat in 1986. So they've had plenty of time to observe the baby giraffes and make note of their special qualities, behaviour and habits. Here are a few fascinating facts you may not know about giraffes:
- Every giraffe's coat has a unique pattern, as individual to it as fingerprints are to humans. That must be a help to CSI African Savannah.
- Not only are male giraffes head and shoulders above the crowd, they are also much taller than their mates. Male giraffes can reach a height of 18 feet while female giraffes are usually less than 15 feet tall.
- Ancient giraffe's had antlers. All that's left today are the short "horns" of bone covered with skin, and tufts of fur on the male giraffes, female giraffe and even the baby giraffe pictured here.
- In a race with the fastest thoroughbred horse, a giraffe would easily win. They reach speeds of 35mph on open ground and regularly travel long distances at 10mph .
- A giraffe's long and mobile tongue, used to strip rough bark and leaves off trees, can reach a length of almost 18 inches. Eeewww!
Wolf and Wolf Pup at Longleat
Did you know that wolf pups are born helpless and stay underground in the den for a month after they're born?
Longleat’s Canadian Timber Wolves live in a densely wooded enclosure that closely matches their preferred environment in the wild.
The park is proud of its record of breeding wolf pups and the pack - an alpha male, an alpha female and subordinate animals - have produced and reared many litters of baby animals.
In an unusual bit of human intervention, staff at Longleat encouraged the wolves to bond by playing tapes of Canadian Timber Wolves howing in the wild. It was hoped that by bonding, a younger wolf would become the dominant female while allowing the original alpha to remain in a subordinate, helper role.
As she grew older, the dominant female of the Longleat pack became unable to give birth and had to be spayed. In the wild, once the alpha female's breeding years are over, she normally falls so low in the pack's hierarchy that she cannot compete for food and dies.
Longleat's head warden, Keith Harris, explained what happened next.
At least 10 pups were born in the next two years, a sure sign of success.
Lion Cub at Longleat Could Be Sizing You Up for Supper
This lion cub will grow into one of Longleat's black maned lions and eat 40 tons of meat a year - that's the equivalent of two, 126 pound people a day!
Longleat's lions are famous throughout the world. They've been important at Longleat Safari Park since it opened in 1966.
Longleat has two dominant male lions, each of which has its own pride of females and cubs. Because lions are territorial, the two prides are kept separated. When you drive through the Safari Park, park staff will open one the gates of one pride's enclosure at a time to allow a few cars in. The individuals that of Longleat's prides came from were originally brought to the park from different zoological collections around Europe. Over the years, the Longleat breeding program has produced a distinctive looking lion. When fully grown, male Longleat lions have a fine black mane.
Lions Relax and That's Some Pillow
And what better way to rest one's head than on twin brother's rump. Don't try this at home folks.
Playful Lion Cub Bonds With its Mother at Longleat
Animals at Longleat have enough space and freedom to develop normally. Here a lion cub and its mother build the bonds that maintain this pride of lions.
Sea Lion and Her Pup at Longleat Safari Park
In a true demonstration of motherly love - one of Longleat's sea lions keeps watch over her adorably homely and curious pup.
Tapir Baby with its Mother at Longleat
This Tapir calf's pattern of stripes and spots is unique. It will fade as the young animal grows large and fast enough to protect itself in the wild.
Family Portrait with Baby - Zebras and Zebra Colt Strike an Artful Pose
Longleat's herd of Grants Zebras are among the park's most popular and photographed animals.