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VIDEO: Newborn Giraffe Calf’s Health In Jeopardy After Mother Refuses To Feed It

Zoo feeding newborn cow's milk as inexperienced mom seems overwhelmed, officials say

A giraffe calf born at the zoo in Vienna a week ago is in jeopardy because its mother refuses to nurse it, leaving zookeepers feeding the newborn cow’s milk instead.

The baby giraffe was born to mother Fleur and father Obi at Schönbrunn Zoo in the Austrian capital Vienna on January 23.

The female giraffe has since been reluctant to let her newborn suckle and has mostly kept it at a distance due to her inexperience as a mother, zoo officials say.

“For Fleur, it is the first offspring. Unfortunately, inexperienced mothers often find themselves overwhelmed with rearing in the wild. Especially with first-time mothers, there is never a guarantee that everything will go well from the start,” Eveline Dungl, the head of the zoological department, said.

Despite the ongoing challenges faced by the nursing team feeding the newborn giraffe with pasteurized Holstein Friesian cow’s milk, Dungl says, the mother appears much more relaxed now.

The young calf has been surviving on cow’s milk as its mother refuses to feed it at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. (Tiergarten Schönbrunn/Zenger)

The milk, which came from a farmer in the town of Laab im Walde, has a similar composition to that of a giraffe, the zoo said.

“We can observe interactions such as the young animal gently licking its mother, but Fleur does not nurse her offspring. We feed it, and fortunately that works very well now. Nevertheless, the young animal’s condition is not yet completely stable,” Dungl says.

The zoo’s veterinarians check the calf’s body temperature and weight regularly.

“In addition to standard examinations, attention must now be paid to whether the offspring can tolerate the cow’s milk. At the moment, we as the vet team see our main task as advising the keepers on the composition of the milk, the intervals between feedings and monitoring the developmental stages of the young animal,” Thomas Voracek, head of the zoo’s veterinary practice, said.

Giraffe mom Fleur with her newborn trying to get close at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. (Tiergarten Schönbrunn/Zenger)

As maintaining the peace and quiet is priority, the giraffe park will remain closed for the time being, the zoo said in a statement.

“It is important now to give the young, inexperienced herd plenty of rest and time. They should get used to the new situation and be able to absorb this experience together,” the statement said.

The Schönbrunn Zoo, considered the world’s oldest, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Giant pandas Yang Yang and Yuan Yuan are popular attractions, housed close to the main zoo entrance. The zoo also features orangutans, elephants and Siberian tigers as well as a tropical rain forest.

Edited by Richard Pretorius and Kristen Butler

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