Juma the giraffe getting hand-fed. Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has now lost two members of its giraffe herd this year, according to a dismal announcement.

Juma, a five-year-old female giraffe, passed away Tuesday after a bout with an unknown illness. She began experiencing gastrointestinal problems earlier this year and had recently been under intensive care, according to a release.

Veterinary staff had been giving her antibiotics, probiotics and anti-inflammatory meds, and had also been administering calcium and nutritional supplements to address “abnormalities detected on recent blood samples.”

She died in the Giraffe House yesterday.

“This has been a year of ups and downs with our giraffe herd,” said zoo president and CEO Don Hutchinson in a statement. “We are feeling the loss of Juma deeply, while knowing that the staff has put their best efforts into caring for her during the past many weeks. She will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Ellen Bronson, director of animal health, conservation and research for the Maryland Zoo, noted in a statement that staff were able to “get [Juma’s] gastrointestinal tract moving during both episodes,” but the giraffe was still unable to put on weight, despite being pushed to eat grain, hay, produce and other diet staples, as well as “special food items for weight gain.”

The team consulted with vets and nutritionists from around the country and tried different treatment regimens over several months.

“We are devastated that despite these efforts we were not able to turn her around,” Bronson said.

Juma was a new mother to nine-month-old Willow, who was born in February. Willow’s arrival marked an exciting moment for the zoo, as she was the first giraffe born there in 20 years.

In another surprise for the Druid Hill Park animal conservatory, a second giraffe named Julius was born four months later. However, after a health battle that dragged on through multiple blood plasma infusions, bottle feeding and IV treatment, Julius heartbreakingly passed away after just one month. His mother was 7-year-old Kesi, who remains a healthy member of the herd.

If there’s any bright spot here, it’s that Willow has finished nursing and is already integrated into her herd, according to zoo mammal collection and conservation manager Erin Cantwell.

“She may initially notice that Juma isn’t there, however she will continue to be with ‘aunties’ Anuli and Kesi and we don’t expect there to be any issues within the herd structure as time passes,” Cantwell said in a statement.

Results from an animal autopsy won’t be available for several weeks, the zoo said.

Juma the giraffe. Photo by Jeffrey F. Bill, courtesy of Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...