The world's smallest antelope, Dik-Diks reach only 12"-16" in adulthood. On September 10th, the Phoenix Zoo welcomed a newborn Dik-Dik to first-time mother "Gidget." Weighing under 2lbs, smaller than most guinea pigs, the tiny calf has grown quickly since birth.
Read more about new baby Dik-dik "Moon" in a first hand account from the Phoenix Zoo's Hoof Stock Keeper by clicking "Continue reading" below and follow them on Twitter here.
Caring For A Brand New Baby (weighing in just under 2 pounds)
By: Paige McNickle - Hoof Stock Keeper - Phoenix Zoo
The Hoof stock trail had been waiting for our littlest charge, Gidget the Kirk’s dik dik to deliver her first offspring for a couple of months. We always worry a little more when it’s a first time mom. Will she know what to do? Will the delivery go okay? Will Gidget be a good mother?
Well, on Thursday September 10, the wait was over! Gidget gave birth sometime that morning between 6 and 10 a.m. I was not working that morning but knew something exciting had happened as my phone started ringing off the hook with a fellow keeper of mine announcing that Gidget had given birth and mother and calf looked well. At the Phoenix Zoo (twitter @PhoenixZoo) we let mother and calf bond for the first day before giving the calf a well baby exam. Yes, even animal neonates get well baby exams. We periodically check on mom and baby through out the day, but we don’t intervene unless there is a problem. We verify the calf is nursing and the mother is being attentive.
As the Primary Zookeeper and the Population Manager of the North American population of Kirk’s as well as Guenther’s dik dik, I was able to come in on my day off to assist the veterinarian with the neonate exam. The vet arrived at the exhibit and we were off to collect the little bundle of joy. When I open the door to our dik dik holding yard it did not occur to me how small a newborn dik dik really was! She was too cute for words and made me smile from ear to ear. She was so tiny sitting there in the corner, about the size of a baby cottontail rabbit with longer legs and bigger ears.
I let Gidget know we would bring her baby back soon and I picked up 621 grams (just under 2 lbs.) of ear, legs and adorable, and walked her to the veterinarian hospital that we have on zoo grounds at The Phoenix Zoo. She was a healthy baby girl! We do neonate exams as fast as possible to create the least amount of stress possible. She was so small I was afraid of breaking her – but she was comfortable and charmed me with her little nose, wiggling and smelling my scent.
As soon as the veterinarian was done with the exam we immediately reunited mother and daughter back at the holding yard of the exhibit. The well baby exam is the only time we hold infants- we don’t bottle feed unless the mother isn’t taking care of a healthy baby, and we don’t pick them up. This policy helps any baby grow up, behave like a dik dik and someday raise his or her own offspring with help. If you pick up and handle the offspring the parents can become stressed and may stop taking care of their calf.
Gidget was happy to see her new little bundle of joy and has been a great mother so far, and takes great care of her daughter by showing her the ropes. In the three weeks since our little bundle was born, she has grown very fast. The staff and I wanted to eventually to introduce her to the rest of her exhibit mates, the Sulcatta tortoise, Kori bustards and Mhorr gazelle, but wanted to make sure it was the right time, for she is still delicate, and we wanted to ensure her safety. She made an easy transition to her new home on exhibit, and if you look carefully you will be able to spot the new baby, who is named Moon and her mom Gidget next time you visit The Phoenix Zoo. (Homepage link http://PhoenixZoo.org)