Zoo keepers worked to save the life of a frail giraffe calf at Paignton Zoo over the holiday weekend. Their efforts ended in heartache, however, as the sick new-born had to be put to sleep by Zoo vets on Monday.
Mother Janica started to show signs of giving birth during the day on Friday 30th March. Every birth is different and they can take many hours, so keepers brought her indoors and closed the Zoo’s giraffe house to give her peace and quiet.
However, staff decided to step in to help deliver the baby as mother Janica started to tire quickly. Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “They could see that Janica was struggling, so they waited for the next contraction and then pulled the legs to help her finish the job. It was better to make it a natural birth rather than go for the option of veterinary intervention.
“In fact, the birth didn’t take too long, and she turned to lick the calf, which was a very good sign. Staff didn’t see the calf suckling, but that’s not unusual at this early stage.” On Saturday morning there were some signs that the calf had suckled overnight, and again on Sunday morning, but staff were concerned and kept a close eye on things. No suckling was seen over the weekend.
“Sadly, by Monday the calf was noticeably weaker and deteriorated rapidly through the morning. Its back legs were weak, they sagged, and it was soon struggling to stand. Zoo vets and keepers discussed their options; as experienced animal carers, they could see that the calf was in distress and they suspected underlying medical problems. For the sake of welfare, they took the hard decision to euthanaise the calf.
“Anyone who has ever owned a pet or kept livestock knows that you have to do the right thing at the right time. Our staff worked heroically to save the calf, but in the end they knew they had to do the right thing, even though it was the last thing they wanted to do.” A full post-mortem examination will be carried out.
Since the tragic fire in early 2006 which claimed the lives of three giraffes, animal experts have patiently rebuilt the Paignton Zoo herd. A male, Yoda, came from Givskud Zoo, Denmark, in September 2006. Two females, Sangha and Janica, came to Paignton Zoo from the Czech Republic.
This is the eleventh birth in eight years. Of the previous calves, two males, Tonda and Valentino, moved on to other collections and four females, Joanna, Otilie and Florrie (all born to Sangha) and Eliska (born to Janica) remain at Paignton Zoo with their parents, making a herd of six. One calf died and three sadly had to be put to sleep for different veterinary reasons. This good record in breeding giraffes is in no small part due to the patient hard work and dedication of animal and veterinary staff.