Giraffe born to first-time mom at zoo

March 31, 1995|By Tia Matthews | Tia Matthews,Sun Staff Writer

Mary and Bo became the proud parents of a 6-foot, 150-pound baby girl Sunday afternoon -- but not without complications.

Shortly after the giraffe was born at the Baltimore Zoo, the first-time mother kicked the newborn, causing head injuries. The unnamed baby -- which zoo visitors can see for the first time tomorrow -- has been taken from Mary, although the giraffes still can interact.

"It's always exciting to have a baby born in the zoo," curator of mammals Sandy Kempske said yesterday, introducing the giraffe. "When you haven't had a giraffe born in a while, it makes it even more exciting."

The last giraffe born at the Baltimore Zoo was a male named B. J. in 1984. At zoos nationwide, 50 reticulated giraffes, the species in Baltimore, were born last year, according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

The parents were out for an afternoon romp in the Giraffe House yard last weekend when Mary went into labor, zoo officials said.

Several visitors saw the giraffe as she started a two-hour labor, but she was brought inside for the delivery. The baby giraffe took about 90 minutes before it stood, and at that point the mother seemed startled.

"When the calf moved, she was nervous," Ms. Kempske said. "My interpretation is that the giraffe was uncertain of the calf, so she kicked."

The calf suffered swelling on the right side of her face, and a partly closed eye from the incident. Fearful that more harm would be done to the newborn, zoo officials took her from her mother.

Most of the injuries cleared within a day, Ms. Kempske said. Now, the new parents are in the stall adjacent to the calf, and can see and lick her through the fence.

Zoo officials still are unwilling to allow Mary to stay alone with her newborn and do not allow her to feed the calf. The baby giraffe is bottle-fed 38 ounces of a milk-replacement product five times a day by zoo attendants.

"We're not sure when we could put her back," Ms. Kempske said. "Maybe about four months, when she gets a little bit more size."

The Giraffe House has been closed to visitors but will reopen Saturday.

Officials have planned some special arrangements to help the calf become acquainted with its new surroundings.

"Our biggest concern is with noise," said Jean Bochnowski, advertising and public relations manager at the zoo. "We're going to have special signage and volunteers to help keep the noise levels down."

The zoo usually has about 5,000 visitors on a Saturday. But officials think the baby giraffe will attract more curious onlookers.

Ms. Bochnowski said, "I would hope we could do six or seven thousand, because she's certainly worth the trip."

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