Rare photos capture newborn giraffe’s first steps in wild as species faces ‘silent extinction’

PIC BY JADE HOLING/MERCURY PRESS

These stunning photos capture the moment a newborn giraffe calf took its first steps – a rare sighting in the wild as the tall mammals are said to be facing ‘silent extinction’.

Wildlife photographer Jade Holing was walking through Kruger National Park in South Africa last month when he caught sight of the newborn calf and quickly took some photos.

The 42-year-old says he was amazed at the beauty of his shots, as he captured the mother licking her calf’s head in a show of affection and love, ‘barely ten minutes’ after giving birth.

Professional photographer Jade said that in his 20 years’ experience in wildlife photography, he’s never captured an animal so close to being born.

The photos are particularly moving as the world’s tallest animal is said to be at risk of extinction as numbers plummeted 40 per cent since 1985, falling from 157,000 to 97,500.

Jade said: “I must have arrived just a few minutes after the birth had taken place.

“The reason calf was standing between the mother’s legs was because she was just a few minutes’ old.

“They are extremely vulnerable to predators so she got between her mother’s legs for protection as soon as she could stand.

“In all my years visiting the Kruger National Park, this was the first time I had witnessed a giraffe calf, or any youngster for that matter, learning to take its first steps.

PIC BY JADE HOLING/MERCURY

“When I get the right lighting and setting it’s fantastic. Wildlife is not an easy thing to photograph. This was literally a few minutes before exiting the park after I’d been walking around.

“She was pretty close to the road, and finding a gap to take the shot through the vehicles and the bushes was a challenge.

“I was only having a short stint, a three night stay in the park and this shot was taken literally before exiting the park.”

Jade captured the amazing moment the young calf was standing between its mother’s legs to protect itself from predators.

He said: “I’d imagine the giraffe licking her young’s head is a display of affection between mother and calf.

“There certainly were a lot of other displays of affection too.

PIC BY JADE HOLING/MERCURY PRESS

“From what I gather, all mothers go through a process of licking when it’s less than an hour since the birth.

Jade says he aims to travel further afield to snap more amazing shots of African wildlife in future.

He said: “I’m a full time professional photographer and I’ve been doing this for over twenty years.

“Until I was four my father was an artist for the National Zoological Gardens in PTA, and then for twenty years after that with the national parks.

“So as I child I was always exposed to our countries’ wildlife.

“I had a keen interest in following in my dad’s footsteps but I discovered I was better at photographing wildlife than I was at painting it.

“In future, I’m really keen on going to Etosha, Serengheti and Congo to photograph more wildlife, just to name a few places in Africa.

PIC BY JADE HOLING/MERCURY PRESS

“My future aspirations are pretty much to just keep doing what I do. Travel more, and see more of the world through my camera and share with people.

“I want to take more images of places that people don’t often get the chance to view personally.”

In 2015, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the devastating drop in worldwide numbers of giraffes meant that the species could be facing ‘silent extinction’.