News / Calgary

Baby giraffe dies at Calgary Zoo 48 hours after birth

The zoo said early necropsy reports suggest a congenital issue.

This six-year-old Masai giraffe named Emara was brought to the Calgary Zoo in 2016 to breed with the zoo's male giraffe Nabo.

Courtesy / Calgary Zoo

This six-year-old Masai giraffe named Emara was brought to the Calgary Zoo in 2016 to breed with the zoo's male giraffe Nabo.

Staff at the Calgary Zoo had been hoping that Emara the giraffe would be having a Christmas baby, but the calf died two days after birth.

The zoo confirmed that the male calf born to Emara and father Nabo died on Dec. 30.

Colleen Baird, general curator with the Calgary Zoo, said it was a sad start to the year for the Zoo.

"We're encouraged that she carried this calf to full term and had a very good birth," said Baird. "Emara is showing all these signs of being such a great mom, and unfortunately this guy was a poor doer."

The calf was slow to even stand up, according to Baird. And once he did get onto his feet, he refused to nurse from Emara, who was doing everything she was supposed to do as a mom.

"He would attempt to nurse," said Baird. "He would try to search parts of the mom's body to find a nipple. But even when he came near that part of the body, he just wouldn't nurse."

After 24 hours, zoo staff decided to intervene. Blood work by the zoo's veterinarian confirmed that the baby had not nursed.

They restrained the calf and gave it some milk using a feeding tube.

The hope was that the feeding would give the calf enough energy and time to figure out how to nurse, although it didn't work.

"It is sad because we can't make him figure that out," said Baird. "He needs to figure that out on his own."

She said that Emara had previously had two stillbirths, and that those are not unusual for giraffes in captivity.

A full necropsy report could take a month, but Baird said there are early indications that the calf had congenital problems with its kidneys and/or bladder.

In the meantime, Emara is doing OK and is being monitored closely to ensure her hormone levels go back to normal.

"This is a species that is vulnerable and we would like to increase the population and further the genetic diversity," said Baird. "So even one calf not making it is a big impact."

The Calgary Zoo has four giraffes in its herd: an adult male, two adult females, and Moshi, a two-year-old female calf.

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