The baby giraffe born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore last week is doing well despite having trouble nursing.
The Maryland Zoo quietly welcomed the birth of a 143-pound, six-foot-tall male reticulated giraffe during the early morning hours of Thursday, June 15, 2017.
Zookeepers were on overnight watch when seven-year-old giraffe Kesi went into labor; the calf was born at 5:49 a.m.
“Although the birth went well and he was on his feet in only 20 minutes, the calf has not been actively nursing,” said Erin Cantwell, mammal collection and conservation manager. “We did note attempts to nurse, but his initial blood-work indicated that he was not receiving the necessary antibodies to help protect him from disease or infection.”
Zoo staff, including the Giraffe House team and veterinarians, began to supplement his feeding with a special colostrum formula early Friday morning. Since then, the team has moved forward with bottle feeding. The calf’s face is covered during the feedings to calm him and simulate the sensation he would feel from his mother’s belly overhead while nursing. It often takes time for a calf to latch on to this new skill, so it is a work-in-progress and takes patience.
“We are cautiously optimistic that his natural instinct to nurse will take over, but we are prepared to supplement his nutritional needs until that happens,” Cantwell said. “Despite the calf’s lack of nursing ability, Kesi is proving to be an amazing mother. She is very attentive and protective of him as well.”
Mother and calf are bonding in the zoo’s Giraffe House and are not yet viewable to the public. The building will remain closed during their first days together to provide them peace and quiet, while staff continues to monitor the calf’s growth and provide any necessary support. The other giraffe may be outside and visible during different times of the day until the herd can be fully introduced to the new calf.
Average gestation for a giraffe calf is approximately 15 months. Giraffes give birth while standing and, unlike humans, the calf is born hooves-first. The calf then proceeds to stand, usually within one hour after birth. In the wild, it is important for a newborn giraffe to be able to stand quickly to elude predators. Giraffe calves typically grow 3 centimeters tall each day during the first week, nearly doubling their height in their first year.
Kesi came to The Maryland Zoo in October 2012 from the Ft. Wayne Children’s Zoo in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The calf’s father, Caesar, has been at The Maryland Zoo since 2008. The baby is the second to be born at the Maryland Zoo this year. Another female giraffe, Juma, gave birth to Willow in February.
For details visit the Maryland Zoo website.