Growth, husbandry, and diets of five successfully hand-reared orphaned giraffe calves (giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi and giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)

Giraffe in the wild are in ongoing decline because of poaching and habitat loss and fragmentation, and were recently assessed as ‘‘vulnerable’’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. Captive breeding and saving each individual are therefore becoming more important to save this species from extinction. This paper describes the husbandry and diets of successfully hand-reared Rothschild’s giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi; n = 3) and reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata; n = 2). All calves were initially fed with bovine colostrum followed by cow’s milk (Holstein milk; Holstein milk with 10% of bovine colostrum; Jersey and Guernsey milk). Additionally, lactase enzymes (Lactaidt, Johnson & Johnson Inc., Guelp, Ontario N1K1A5, Canada) and probiotics (Probiost, Vets Plus, Inc., Menomonie, WI 54751, USA) were used. Average growth varied from 764 to 1,239 g/day from birth until 2 mo of age and between 508 and 1,161 g/day from birth until last measurement before weaning. Hand-reared calves gained up to 21 cm in height within the first month and 82–138% of their birth weight during the first 2 mo. The giraffes were weaned at 6 (n=1), 8 (n=3), and 11.5 (n=1) mo and successfully socialized and introduced to other giraffes. The described diets and husbandry proved to be effective in all five calves. Large amounts of cow’s milk per feeding (up to 6 L) did not result in gastrointestinal problems.

Last Updated
January 26, 2021
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