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Giraffe calf born at Franklin Park Zoo being treated for medical issues

A female giraffe calf born on Sunday evening at Zoo New England's Franklin Park Zoo is being treated at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University.

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.

After trying several times throughout the day on Monday to get the calf to stand and nurse, the Zoo New England veterinary staff and animal managers made the decision to transport the calf to the Hospital for Large Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, part of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, after consultation with Dr. Daniela Bedenice, a member of the school’s faculty who specializes in large animal care. 

“We tried multiple times to get the baby to stand and nurse, but as we cared for the calf throughout the day she just wasn’t improving. 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. 

“We are working with Zoo New England to provide the most appropriate treatment possible for the giraffe,” said Cummings Veterinary Medical Center’s Alisha M Gruntman, DVM, who has been overseeing the calf’s care. “Cases of this nature are complex, and the giraffe’s condition can change from day to day. We will continue to monitor her clinical status very closely and evolve our plan accordingly.”

While she continues to make positive progress, it is unknown when the calf will be able to return to Franklin Park Zoo. 

Jana is currently off-exhibit while Zoo staff monitors her closely post-partum. She is eating and seems to be adjusting well, and is being kept close to the giraffe barn in anticipation of her reunion with the calf. With complex situations such as this, it is unclear whether reintroduction would be successful and whether Jana will be able to nurse the calf. Animal Management staff are preparing to hand rear the calf if need be.

Beau, age 17, and Jana, age 15, were bred as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoo New England is an active participant in this program. SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species. Jana is an experienced mother who has successfully reared many other calves at Franklin Park Zoo. 

Please note: Photo and video opportunities are not available at this time.

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