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Newborn giraffe rushed to hospital

Zoo New England reports a giraffe calf born Sunday was transported to Tuft's Cummings Veterinary Medical Center in Grafton.

The calf was born between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Sunday, July 24. Typically, newborn calves stand within an hour of birth. However, this calf was having difficulty getting up and standing and was not able to nurse from her mother, Jana. Zoo New England’s staff provided supportive care including intravenous fluids and dextrose and also began administering antibiotics to prevent infection.

If a ruminant (even-toed hoofed mammals that include giraffes) does not nurse within the first 8 - 12 hours, it does not absorb the antibodies and protein-rich nutrients in the colostrum. It is important for newborns to take in colostrum soon after birth, as it is vital for strengthening the immune system to ward off infections.

Zoo workers tried several times Monday to get to get the calf to stand and nurse; when that didn't work, they decided to transport her to Tuft's large-animal hospital:

“We felt that she needed the more specialized care that Tufts can provide as they have experience caring for newborn giraffes in similar situations,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Director of Animal Health and Conservation Medicine. “We are guardedly optimistic with her prognosis, but at this point there are a number of unknowns and we, along with the Tufts staff, are continuing to monitor her very closely.”

The calf is receiving antibiotics, a continuous IV drip of fluids with dextrose, a plasma transfusion, and continuous monitoring and nursing care.

Jana, 15, meanwhile, is being kept out of public sight as she recovers. Zoo officials said she is eating and seems to be OK, but workers are prepared to hand-feed the calf should the reintroduction of mother and baby not go well. Jana has birthed several other calves successfully, zoo officials add.

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