In this new six-part series starting on Monday June 12th, zoologist Lucy Cooke will witness the miracle of life as she sees first-hand the incredible bond between a mother and her offspring – that extraordinary moment when a little baby comes into a huge world.
From alligators, alpacas and gorillas, to guinea pigs, tapirs and lions, in this new six-part series Lucy will be there as these animal babies embark on their amazing new adventures.
In episode one, Lucy is at a birth with more drama than she bargained for, and also witnesses the moment a rare baby rhino enters the world.
She starts her journey at the time of year when nature welcomes in millions of babies: spring, and her adventure begins high up in the hills of the Yorkshire Dales, where baby lambs are leaping into life.
Lucy says: “If there is one animal that is part of my family history, it’s sheep, because my granddad and his father were both shepherds, and they must have delivered hundreds of lambs. So the perfect place for me to start my animal birth adventure is to find out if lambing is in my blood.”
For the second amazing animal birth, Lucy visits Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, part of the animal conservation charity, The Aspinall Foundation.
Here, they are committed to breeding and reintroducing rare and endangered species back into the wild.
Lucy says: “Every animal birth is special, it’s a new life and a new addition to the species, but when the expectant mum is a critically endangered breed, then the pregnancy takes on an even greater significance.”
One animal that Howletts have so far not been able to breed is the black rhino, so they are hoping that Damara will have their first ever, successful rhino pregnancy. Given there are only around 2,500 black rhino left in the wild, this birth is really important.
Over the next two weeks, the team monitor Damara as she gets closer to giving birth, and eventually, as Damara becomes agitated, it sounds like her labour has begun. Though as a first time mum, there’s no way of knowing how well she will handle giving birth.
Three hours later, and Lucy gets the first sight of the baby’s head emerging. The calf is coming out the correct way and it’s a very good sign that Damara will be able to deliver naturally. Instinctively Damara breaks the sack and her baby can take its first breath.
Lucy says: “Damara’s calm and attentive…just 43-minutes after birth, our calf, a baby boy, is taking his first tentative steps. By first light, Damara is proving to be a natural at feeding.”
The rhino baby won’t be fully grown until he’s around 15-years-old, then he’ll be ready to fend for himself and take charge of his territory. And one day it may be possible for him to return to the wild and help preserve this incredible species.
Amazing Animals Births was series produced for Shiver and ITV by Ruth Binsley and series directed by Simon Paintin. Gavin Barclay was the producer/director and the executive producer Mark Scantlebury.