A Rothschild’s giraffe has been born at Paignton Zoo. The female calf was born to mother Janica in the small hours of Sunday 11th January. Sadly, she was rejected by her mother, so zoo keepers have stepped in to bottle feed her.
Senior Head Keeper of Mammals Matthew Webb: “She took two litres of milk from me on Tuesday morning and has since started feeding very well, gulping down at least 1 litre of milk at every feed, so she is getting the hang of it. She is separated from the group but can see them all, for the first few days it is important to keep her separate to allow her to bond with the keepers so she feels comfortable enough to feed from them. As soon as possible she will be reintroduced to the herd so she doesn’t forget she is a giraffe!”
Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment added: “At this stage we don’t know why Janica has rejected her. Giraffe mothers are fickle beasts. Sometimes they will rear their calves, sometimes they won’t. Janica reared her first, Tonda, who is now the breeding bull at Chessington Zoo, Surrey, but declined to rear her second Valentino, who was successfully hand reared by the keepers, reintroduced to the family group and is now in Port Lympne Zoo, Kent.”
Paignton Zoo – a registered charity – is going to get through a lot of milk over the next few months. Matthew Webb again: “At the moment we need about 4 to 6 litres of gold top milk each day. She will take in around 10% of her body weight in milk each day and gain weight just as quickly. She was 63 kilos – 139 pounds, 9.9 stone – at birth, but as she grows, so will her milk requirements.”
Hand rearing a giraffe is a lot of extra work and commitment for the keepers. “She is fed 4 times a day. She could need milk for up to 9 months. We will start weaning her when she is around 5 to 6 months, depending on how she gets on.”
The calf stands at nearly six feet tall at birth. The gestation period for a giraffe is between 400 and 460 days. The mother gives birth standing up – the fall breaks the umbilical cord. The calf can stand and run within a few hours.
Father Yoda came from Givskud Zoo, Denmark, where he was born on 14th November 2004. He arrived in Devon in September 2006. Janica came to Paignton Zoo from Duvr Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
The Zoo’s other adult female is Sangha, who came from Liberec Zoo, also in the Czech Republic. The other youngsters at the Zoo are Otilie, who was born in September 2012, and Joanna, born in January 2014, both to mother Sangha.
They are all Rothschild’s (Baringo) giraffes. Rothschild’s giraffes are classified as Endangered – there is a European Endangered species Programme for the species. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 0844 474 2222.
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