After a monthlong fight, staff at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore bid goodbye to Julius this weekend.
The zoo made the announcement on Saturday. Vets had hooked the giraffe calf up to an IV line later in the week after he’d stopped feeding properly. For a minute there, when Julius started feeding from a pan, it seemed like he might be able to climb out of his health spiral, but things took a turn for the worse on Friday.
Ultimately, staff made the call to euthanize the baby giraffe.
“This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping for, but we rest assured that we did everything we possibly could medically to prevent him from any distress,” said Dr. Samantha Sander, associate veterinarian at the zoo, in a statement.
From the start, the calf faced tough odds. He was born on June 15 at six feet tall and 143 pounds. While he was able to stand almost right away — a good sign in newborn giraffes — his immune system took an immediate hit when he didn’t take to nursing from his mother, Kesi. The experts at the Druid Hill Park facility arranged for giraffe plasma transfusions from zoos in Columbus and Colorado Springs over the next few weeks. They also put him on bottle feeding, both with milk from his mother while she was still nursing, as well as with nutrient-rich formula.
Despite positive signs at first, Julius didn’t stabilize and eventually stopped eating properly. Vets ultimately made the tough decision to put him on an IV. Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital helped with the final effort, prepping and donating a total parenteral nutrition formula for his IV treatment, according to a release.
Zoo general curator Mike McClure said in a statement that “dozens of people” helped Julius along the way, “from zoo giraffe experts to veterinarians to nutritionists and human doctors and pediatric specialists,” along with The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
A necropsy will be performed to get a better sense of Julius’ health condition, Sander said. The hope is that his “short life will help gain vast knowledge not only for us, but for other facilities as we all continue to face similar issues in our efforts to save and safeguard the species,” she said.
Julius was a rare gift for the zoo, the second giraffe calf born there in 20 years. His half-sister, Willow, was born five months earlier. She remains a healthy member of the herd with Kesi and Julius’ father, Caesar, among others.
In memory of the late baby giraffe, here’s a tear-jerking video from the zoo of Willow caring for him after they first met this month. RIP, Julius.
JULIUS UPDATE: Julius, Kesi, Willow, and Juma all together. There are not significant changes to Julius’ health or feeding to report today, but there is a major social change. Julius’ 5-month-old half-sister Willow and her mom Juma have met him before through sight, smell, and even some touch through barriers, but now they are sharing space for the first time inside the Giraffe House (which remains closed to the public).
Giraffes are herd animals by nature, so the introductions went very smoothly. You can even see big sister Willow grooming Julius’ face in this video. Our hope is that this change will not just provide Julius and Kesi additional social stimulation but also potentially encourage Julius to be more active and work up a stronger appetite for his feedings. The giraffe care team continues to watch the results of each adjustment they’re making including this one closely.
Zoo visitors should note that this weekend Willow and Juma may not be viewable on exhibit as they spend more time indoors with Julius and Kesi. Ceasar and Anuli are expected to be outdoors and the Giraffe Feeding Station will be open to giraffe lovers. #TeamJulius
Posted by The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on Friday, July 7, 2017
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