Veterinary care of neonatal giraffe poses many unique challenges. Preparation typically requires time consuming investigation and discussion. The goal of this presentation is to summarize these issues and offer a reference for potential solutions and planning, based on previous literature and unpublished experience of zoo professionals.
Some of the key concerns include: preparation for birth (housing, substrate, separation, socialization and intervention plan); dystocia (when and how to intervene); maternal neglect (when to hand rear); failure of passive transfer (identifying and addressing the lack of antibody protection with colostrum and/ or various types of plasma); providing nutrition (milk replacers and parenteral nutrition); supportive care (intravenous fluids, blood monitoring, antibiotics and other drugs); bottle feeding (tactics, equipment and positioning techniques).
While many attempts at giraffe hand-rearing have failed, a wide variation of techniques has resulted in viable hand-reared giraffe calves. Patterns and consistencies have emerged that appear to increase the chances of success. Pre-emptive consideration of these issues should allow for advance planning that may make the difference in the outcome of newborn giraffe.
The authors graciously acknowledge the contributions of all giraffe housing institutions, veterinarians and keepers who have contributed to this information, with particular thanks to the Drs. Barb Wolfe, Teresa Burns, Holly Haefele, and Nadine Lamberski.