The Health of Denver Zoo’s Baby Giraffe Improves Dramatically

Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo on Facebook.

Back in February, the Denver Zoo rivaled New York’s Animal Adventure Park’s live stream sensation — a pregnant giraffe named April — with its own unexpected bundle of joy: Dobby. 

Dobby — a male reticulated giraffe — came into the world on Tuesday, Feb. 28 a little behind. He was underweight — at 73 pounds — and at five feet tall, smaller than most baby giraffes. The newborn had trouble standing and nursing within the first few hours of his birth, so zoo staff jumped into action to bottle feed him until he was ready to nurse from Kipele, his mother.

Even though the newborn started nursing, blood work showed that he wasn’t able to receive enough infection-fighting proteins within the first day from his mother. Worried about the baby’s health, the Denver Zoo partnered with Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs to get Dobby a plasma transfusion.

Dobby walks in his enclosure.
Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo on Facebook.

Dobby is now a healthy and active baby giraffe. He weighs more than 173 pounds — 100 pounds more than when he was born — and tops out at around 6′ 2″ — more than a foot taller than at birth. His blood work is now normal and he loves to run outside in the sun. He now spends more time with the zoo’s other giraffes including his father, Dikembe.

“The other giraffes see [Dobby] as a new animal, but for the most part they’re pretty sweet,” said Denver Zoo’s Public Relations Coordinator, Marina Belisle. “They acknowledge that he’s a little bit smaller so they take it a little easier on him.”

Dobby will continue to nurse for around four more months before being weaned, but he now tries the browse and alfalfa available in his exhibit.

So, will Dobby continue to call Denver Zoo home? Will he move to another zoo after he stops nursing? At the moment, the Denver Zoo doesn’t know.

“As of right now, we don’t have anything set,” Belisle said. “We are just enjoying him being here and of course keeping him nursing. That’s a priority to keep Dobby and his mom together.”

Baby giraffe, Dobby, and his mother, Kipele.
Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo on Facebook.

The Denver Zoo keeps all of its giraffes on birth control, which is why Dobby was such a surprise. Zoo staff assumed Kipele was pregnant from her bloating belly and enlarged udders, but found it difficult to conduct an ultrasound. Kipele eventually let the keepers who work with her daily use an ultrasound while veterinarians monitored from another room. A giraffe’s gestation period is around 15 months.

“We are just super excited. This was a surprise, but of course, an amazing surprise. There are new births all the time at the zoo so we encourage everyone to frequently check back and see what new animal we have. We have over 4,000 animals at the zoo so we always have a new one coming along,” Belisle said.

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