BALTIMORE — When a newborn giraffe in Maryland needed an emergency plasma transfusion, zookeepers turned to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for help.
Julius the giraffe was born at the Maryland Zoo on June 15. He was 6-foot and weighed 143 pounds, zoo officials said.
That’s a foot taller and about twice as heavy as Dobby when he was born at the Denver Zoo on March 1.
“Although the birth went well and he was on his feet in only 20 minutes, the calf has not been actively nursing,” Maryland Zoo officials stated.
Zookeepers started bottle feeding Julius and he gained weight fairly steadily for about two weeks.
Then, in July, his weight started to drop. On Saturday, officials announced there had been a “sudden and major change in Julius’ blood work.”
“Julius is now in an intensive care situation as the team works to stabilize him while continuing to focus efforts to get him feeding from a bottle,” officials said.
“Not only are our experts critically caring for Julius hour-by-hour, but Zoo staff are also regularly communicating with colleagues at AZA-accredited zoos across the country who have worked with similar cases.”
That’s where the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo comes in. Over the years, zookeepers there have trained giraffes to hold still for injections and blood samples.
“We have quite a few giraffe here at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo who are enthusiastic donors,” Andrea Bolt said. “Msitu, the mother of our 2-month-old baby Rae, is our resident ‘rock star’ when it comes to blood draws and has been a main source of plasma for us.”
The zoo keeps a plasma bank in case of any emergencies with its herd, which is how it was able to donate plasma to the Denver Zoo when Dobby was having similar health problems.
Within one day of being notified of the situation in Maryland, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo delivered the potentially lifesaving plasma to baby Julius.
“After the worrisome change in his blood work yesterday, the team quickly put into motion a critical care plan for Julius including preparing for an emergency transfusion of giraffe plasma donated by our partners at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo,” officials in Maryland said Sunday.
“That transfusion was successfully administered today and the giraffe care and veterinary teams are monitoring the results of the procedure closely while continuing to work systematically with Julius on bottle feeding.”
The next day, Maryland Zoo officials said they saw a slight improvement in Julius after the transfusion but said “care and observation continue 24 hours a day.”
“The critical plasma transfusion Julius received yesterday, along with antibiotics and fluids, resulted in slight improvement in his blood work today,” officials said.
The bottle-feeding effort continues to be critical.
“We won’t sugarcoat it, Julius and the Zoo team are in a very hard spot right now and there is still work to be done,” officials said Monday.
Experts warn there is a “silent extinction” occurring right now in wild giraffe.
“In the past four decades, it’s estimated we’ve lost as much as 40 percent of our wild population,” Bolt stated.
“We are very happy to be able to help our fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited organizations. Not only will all of our combined efforts help giraffe within our organizations, our reach will also extend to their wild counterparts.
“Our hope is people will visit those giraffe in AZA organizations, feel a connection, and then be inspired to help their wild cousins. Conservation is at the heart of who we are as zoos and aquariums.”