By Bejay Browne
PAPHOS zoo is celebrating the successful birth of a male Dromedary camel which came into the world on Monday lunchtime.
Assistant manager, Ioulios Christoforou told the Cyprus Mail: “It was the keepers’ break time, about 12.30pm, and we had a phone call from visitors at the zoo entrance who said our camel was giving birth. We rushed down and the birth had already started. We could see the legs and the head. It was quick and only took about 15 minutes.”
Keepers were concerned that the calf would be born healthy, following the death of the pair’s first calf, a female, which died last year, after only surviving for a week.
“This is the second time they have had a baby, the first was a female; born in January 2014 with genetic defects and sadly, she died a week later.”
He said: “We gave the baby a quick check and he seems fine and healthy, without any genetic defects. Then the mother cleaned him and started to take care of him.”
Christoforou said that the male calf stood up in the first hour of being born and fell over, but got straight back up and started to walk.
The female camel chose to give birth in the open part of the camel enclosure and not in the camel house, so visitors to the zoo were able to watch the birth.
“The mother is ten years old and the father is seven, we have had them for six years. They live for around 25 years in captivity. In the wild, the average lifespan is considerably shorter, around 10 to 15 years,” he said.
The new addition is being closely monitored, but Christoforou said that the calf seems very healthy so far, and will be out of the most dangerous period in about a months’ time. “Camels are generally hardy animals though and we are very excited. We will name him in around a month.”
The assistant manager added that Cyprus and Cypriots have a connection with camels as they used to live and work in Cyprus, much as donkeys have in the past. “My father remembers camels in village, which were used for transport.”
Camels eat mostly grass and hay and keepers also prepare them a premix of grain.
“The baby is feeding off the mother and could do so for up to two years, although it’s usually for a year or less.”
Christoforou said that the new father is rather taken with his son and has taken on the role of a doting parent. “He really likes him and is very interested in him; he also helps to clean him as well.”
This has been the best year so far for the zoo, with dozens of successful births. The record season has seen lemurs, monkeys, wallabies, gazelles, tigers and birds successfully produce young at the zoo.
The zoo has one of the largest collections of birds in Europe –and Christoforou, who is training to be a vet, recently hand reared the zoo’s first baby tiger, Lara, after she was rejected by her mother. He has since formed a strong bond with the cub who is popular with the public.
‘Pafos zoo’ was the first licensed zoo in Cyprus and is also a member of internationally recognised PAAZA -The Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
The zoo took three years to complete and opened to the public in September 2003. It covers an area of 100,000m² and a number of successful breeding and conservation programmes are in place.
The zoo is also home to penguins – living in a climate controlled house – crocodiles, lions, giraffes, marmosets, snakes and bats.