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Baby Giraffe Gets Help From Two Zoos

A baby Reticulated Giraffe born February 28 at the Denver Zoo received a plasma transfusion as a precaution after he experienced difficulties in his first few days of life. 

Staff at the Denver Zoo did not know until recently that the calf’s mother, Kipele, was pregnant. When she delivered her calf, which keepers named Dobby, staff was on hand to monitor the birth and the baby’s progress.  Baby Giraffes normally begin nursing within a few hours of birth and receive important antibodies from colostrum, which is the nutrient-rich milk produced at the end of pregnancy. When the staff noticed that Dobby was not nursing and had trouble standing, they stepped in to feed the calf and provide critical care.

Baby_giraffe-Dobby_01Photo Credit:  Denver Zoo

Dobby began nursing and seemed to gain strength with his supplemental feedings, but blood tests showed that Dobby did not receive enough infection-fighting proteins from his mother due to his difficulties with nursing. So veterinarians provided colostrum-replacer and a transfusion of plasma to boost Dobby’s immune system.

Giraffe plasma is not easy to obtain, but fortunately the nearby Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where Kipele was born, was able to help.  Keepers there had done voluntary training with their Giraffes, which hold still for injections and small blood samples. Recently, they were able to collect larger volumes of blood in order to bank plasma for emergency situations just like this one.

The cooperation between the Denver Zoo and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff is just one example of the tremendous cooperation among zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Zoos work together to save animals – from entire species on the brink of extinction to individual animals like Dobby.

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Giraffes are born after a 15-month gestation period. The calf will nurse on his mother’s milk for approximately six months, at which time he will be weaned. During the first two years of a Giraffe’s life, it doubles its height to be almost 12-feet tall.

Giraffes are the world’s tallest land mammal and can grow up to 17-feet tall. An adult female is between 1,540 to 2,600 pounds and adult males range from 2,420 to 4,215 pounds. Like human fingerprints, the markings of a Giraffe’s coat are unique to each individual. Reticulated Giraffes are native to the dry savannahs and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.