Giraffe Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Receiving Specialized Care

A 5-day-old giraffe calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is receiving specialized care at the Safari Park’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center. The male calf, born Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, was observed having difficulty nursing from his mother. After close assessment in the field exhibit, the animal care and veterinary teams decided to relocate him to the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center for supportive care and a diagnostic evaluation.

Once at the hospital, the calf was anesthetized for a complete exam and CT scan of his head, chest and pelvis. “Advanced imaging confirmed inflammation in the calf’s nasal cavity and throat region,” said Lauren Howard, associate director of veterinary services at the Safari Park. “It was not possible to confirm the cause of the inflammation; trauma during birth or an early infection are considered the most likely causes. The calf recovered well from the anesthesia and is in stable condition, receiving appropriate treatments and daily veterinary care. We want to give this calf the best opportunity to thrive.”

Because the inflammation has affected nursing, to provide the calf with the nutrition he needs, the animal care team made the decision to hand-rear and bottle-feed the calf. To make the calf as comfortable as possible, animal care staff rub an animal print blanket on the mother in the field and use this blanket during the calf’s bottle-feedings. “When the calf smells his mother’s scent, it stimulates him—and he is more likely to take the bottle from us,” said Eileen Neff, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Once the calf is stabilized, the animal care team will take steps to ensure he is given the opportunity to develop proper social skills to successfully integrate into a giraffe herd.

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