Keepers Dress In Zebra-Print Clothing To Become ‘Surrogate Mum’ For Orphaned Zebra
From dusk till dawn, keepers at a Kenyan wildlife unit wear black and white striped clothing so an orphaned zebra will recognise them as his ‘surrogate mum’.
Diria was left abandoned after his mother was killed by a pride of lions at Tsavo East National Park. Fortunately, the young zebra managed to escape the attack by hiding with a nearby heard of goats.
After a short stint being cared for by the local herdsmen, Diria was transported to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Voi Reintegration Unit, where the keepers are striving to give him the most natural upbringing possible under the circumstances.
Check out a video of one of the keepers walking around with Diria below:
Wild zebra calves typically form a strong bond with their mothers, often raised alone. To overcome this obstacle, keepers from the unit take turns wearing a long, zebra-print coat so they will appear to be his surrogate mum, no matter who’s wearing it.
Throughout the day, the keeper will accompany Diria as he walks around the unit, getting acquainted with the wild environment and interacting with other animals, all while being provided comfort, security and regular bottles of milk. At night, he rests in a warm stable.
A spokesperson for Sheldrick Wildlife Trust explained:
Plains zebras live in close-knit groups and the bonds between mother and baby are especially strong. Baby zebras need to be able to recognise their mother from birth to survive so mothers will often keep their fluffy newborns away from the herd to ensure their calves imprint on them, recognising their unique bar-code coat, call and smell.
Our team of caregivers are giving Diria the specialist 24/7 care he needs to give him the very best chance of survival. It’s an example of the extra mile our teams go to make sure these animals, that have already suffered so much, can pull through.
Rob Brandford, executive director of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, added that Diria ‘is incredibly affectionate with his carers and, perhaps with the exception of his milk, loves nothing more than nuzzling into them as they comfortingly groom him’.
He noted that with ‘the help of our supporters, we are proud to be in a position to help this baby boy after such a traumatic start to his life’.
Diria will remain under the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s care until he’s old enough and well-equipped with the survival skills required to reintegrate into wild populations in a protected area.
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