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Bioparc's newborn zebra foal takes the plunge
STAFF at Valencia's Bioparc saved a zebra foal who walked straight into a river within seconds of being born.
The foal came into the world yesterday (Wednesday) evening, to the delight of carers who watched and filmed the entire process.
Although normally, ruminants such as horses, donkeys and zebras only pop their head, shoulders and front legs out when first born and often lie for some time with the rest of their bodies inside their mothers – said to be nature's way of guarding her against infection – the new baby in Valencia was keen to get going as quickly as possible.
As is habitual with these animals, the mother cleaned the baby's coat with her teeth to remove remaining traces of the amniotic sack, then bit the afterbirth so as to snap off the umbilical cord.
And the second the cord was off, the foal began staggering towards the river.
Horses and other species in the same family are precocial animals – born at a late stage in development, unlike 'atricial' humans who cannot fend for themselves for a long time after birth – and foals normally start trying to stand within seconds of their entire bodies being free of the mother.
They will be able to walk on the same day – precariously in the first few minutes, but gathering confidence until they are completely mobile within an hour or so.
Normally, their first port of call is the mother's teats, though, rather than the nearest river.
The zebra foal became completely submerged and staff had to go in, up to their chests, to stop the baby from drowning.
Fortunately, foals can be lifted by humans – there is a correct procedure for doing so – albeit they can be heavy and cumbersome.
Between the two employees, they were able to fish the intrepid youngster out fairly easily and put him back with his mum.
Valencia's Bioparc, based in the botanical gardens in what used to be the river Túria, allows its animals to roam freely in a habitat similar to their natural surroundings.
The complex is open, meaning visitors can get right up close to the animals.
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