Four Reindeer were born at Zoo Basel in quick succession between April 20 and May 5. All four calves were healthy, following their mothers and nursing within just a few hours of their births.
Photo Credit: Zoo Basel
Zoo staff are always pleased to see babies nurse soon after birth, because this is the only time when the mothers produce colostrum milk. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that protect against disease in newborns with underdeveloped immune systems. Reindeer milk is rich in fat, which allows the young animals to grow very quickly in a short period of time – something vital for their survival in the bitterly cold Arctic tundra.
Before giving birth, pregnant female Reindeer separate themselves from the herd and look for a quiet location, usually a stall in the barn. When a calf is born, the zoo’s veterinarians examine the newborn, insert an ID chip, deliver a selenium and Vitamin E shot to prevent white muscle disease, and antibodies to boost their immune system. Their navel is also disinfected with an iodine solution.
Reindeer have unusual feeding habits, and the nutritional quality of their food is more important than the quantity. In the Arctic tundra where they live, Reindeer feed mainly on lichens, which are a good source of energy. They do not graze on grasses, which are high in fiber and low in nutrients. At the zoo, the Reindeer receive hay, vegetables, and pelleted food supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
Reindeer are the only species of domesticated deer and the only one where the females have antlers. On their seasonal migrations, huge herds of more than 100,000 Reindeer migrate up to 3,000 miles - the longest migration of any land mammal. Reindeer have another peculiar characteristic, which can be heard if you stand close by: when they walk, they make a soft clicking noise. This sound comes from a tendon on their hind legs that slips over the bone as they walk.
See more photos of the calves below.