ZSL London Zoo – whose future is uncertain after 2 months of enforced closure – has released amazing video taken by keepers, showing the moment their newest resident-to-be began kicking mum for the first time.
The team have been monitoring the pregnancy of one of their most endangered species, six-year-old Oni the okapi - while appealing to the public and the government for urgent financial support.
The amazing video shows Oni’s stomach rippling in waves with the force of the tiny calf’s hoof kicks, as she enters her third trimester: due this September, the little one is an important part of the international breeding programme for the elusive species, which is endangered in the wild and needs support from conservation organisations such as ZSL for its continued survival.
ZSL London Zoo keeper Megan Harber explains: “Alongside ZSL’s vet team, we’ve been monitoring Oni and her baby since her pregnancy was confirmed last August: her little one is now definitely big enough to make its presence known and it was incredible to finally ‘see’ the baby in action for the first time.”
The Zoo’s vet team have been working with Oni’s keepers to give her regular ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy - gathering important data to share with zoos and conservationists around the world - but this is the first time the team have seen the baby kick in real life.
“It’s definitely been challenging for us and the vet team to keep up Oni’s ultrasounds during the lockdown - we’ve had to keep socially distanced while caring for all the animals at the Zoo - but it is vital that we keep track of Oni’s progress, both for her and the calf and for her species, about which surprisingly little is known by the scientific community.
“During this unprecedented time - with no funds coming in from visitors - international conservation charity ZSL has launched a public appeal for financial support, so that we can continue to carry out important work like this with every critically endangered species resident at the Zoo.
“These new kick-a-thons are a sign that both mother and baby are doing really well - Oni is definitely going to have a feisty calf to look after in September and we can’t wait to meet him or her when they arrive.
"In the meantime, as the Zoo itself becomes increasingly endangered, we're urging people to help us in whatever way they can.”
ZSL is a charity and every day that we are closed to the public is another day’s worth of funds we must raise to keep our two Zoos running smoothly, our scientists investigating wildlife diseases such as Covid-19, and our conservationists working in the field to protect critically endangered species. The future of this iconic national institution now hangs in the balance: as well as asking the government for support, ZSL has a live public appeal.