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Zookeepers to Hand Raise Female Giraffe Calf

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The calf is strong and healthy, and she is learning to drink from a bottle.

Zookeepers to Hand Raise Female Giraffe Calf

The new female giraffe calf at the Zoo. Photo by Amy Landers/ABQ BioPark.

April 22, 2013

The animal care team at the Zoo has started to bottle-feed the new giraffe calf, born on Saturday, Apr. 20 at 10:12 a.m. The mother, June, did not bond with the calf immediately, and when zookeepers observed that the calf was still not able to nurse some hours later, they decided to step in and provide colostrum and milk for the calf. Colostrum, sometimes called "first milk," is an important source of immunities for ruminants, like giraffes.

"We were surprised that June, who is an experienced mother, did not bond with the calf," said Lynn Tupa, Zoo Manager. "But this kind of thing happens sometimes, and our hoofstock team and veterinarians were prepared. They had cow's colostrum and milk ready to go and are now helping the calf learn to drink from a bottle."

Tupa continued, "Drinking from a bottle is challenging for giraffes, and we'll be sure she gets the milk she needs by temporarily tube feeding while also offering a bottle. We are optimistic that she'll be readily accepting a bottle and growing quickly within a couple weeks."

During the first feeding and check-up, zookeepers were able to confirm that the calf is a girl, and they were impressed with her strength as a newborn. She weighed 120 pounds and was just under six feet tall.

"Ideally, we want mom to raise her calf, but for the health of this baby, we are definitely doing the next best thing by bottle-raising it," said Paul Huang, primary giraffe keeper. "It is extra work, but it makes the special moments even more special when you know how much has gone into it. While a small group is involved directly with the calf, caring for animals is always a team effort and it wouldn't happen without everyone involved."

The calf will be integrated back into the giraffe herd as soon as possible, and Zoo guests will be able to see her often in the exhibit. She will be in the barn 4-5 times a day for feedings and check-ups. Newborn giraffe calves typically drink around 1 gallon of milk per day; the volume increases as they grow.

Zookeepers are selecting a slate of names, and BioPark Facebook fans will be able to vote for their favorite in coming weeks. For more information, email [email protected] or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

Read about the birth of the new calf.

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