We love having Dobby but let's talk about giraffe birth control

9NEWS at 6 p.m. 3/3/17.

DENVER - Dobby, the Denver Zoo's newborn giraffe, is getting better after a whirlwind first three days.

He needed a plasma transfusion on Thursday because he's not getting enough of the good stuff from his mom's milk.

Since his surprise birth on Tuesday, you've been asking a lot of questions, like how do you have a surprise birth in a zoo?

While Denver Zoo employees suspected Dobby's mom, Kipele, might be pregnant, she didn't let them do an ultrasound "until recently."

Next asked the Denver Zoo to specify "until recently" and found out Kipele's pregnancy was confirmed on Feb. 24. Dobby was born on Feb. 28. FYI, Giraffes are pregnant for 15 months.

The zoo also told us that Kipele's birth control didn't work. So what the heck is giraffe birth control anyway?

"When you get into wildlife, it's not a perfect science," said Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation at Denver Zoo. "There's all kinds of birth control out there, just like there is in humans. Quite frankly, there's nothing specific for giraffes."

Birth control for a giraffe would either be an injection or an implant that would last three, six, nine or 12 months.

"It's not a perfect science because they don't develop giraffe birth control and lion birth control and hyena birth control, so you're using things that are for similar species, but not necessarily specific to an individual species," said Aucone.

We also asked if Dobby would have needed a plasma transfusion if the zoo had known earlier that his mom was pregnant.

"There's nothing that would have changed or should have been done differently," said Aucone. "The issues that Dobby is facing can be faced by any giraffe. It's a matter of after birth and getting enough milk from your mom, those sorts of things, so it's not about anything that happened prior to that, so this could happen to any giraffe shortly after birth."

Dobby's plasma transfusion came from a supply from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. Some of the animals at both zoos have actually been trained to help in their own medical care, which allowed the collection of a plasma sample from one of Cheyenne Mountain's giraffes.

The practice is known as "behavioral husbandry," which just like humans, means training someone (guys, we're looking at you) to help out around the place.

"It basically means I help take care of the behavioral needs of our animal collection," said Heather Genter, Denver Zoo's Assistant Curator of Behavioral Husbandry. "I'm looking at how are the animals moving, how are they acting and primarily their mental stimulation."

She showed Next how a hyena is trained to follow commands, so that it could receive an injection or have a dental check.

Outside, the oldest living Kudu in North America was getting physical therapy. According to the zoo, Fred, the Kudu, could barely turn his head a while back, but through therapy involving bread treats, he can now turn it almost 180 degrees to touch his back. So yes, Fred turns his head for bread.

We also saw an elephant offer its foot for a pedicure, otherwise it would never have nail problems addressed because putting them under anesthesia would be too dangerous.

"It provides a way for us to be able to do daily health checks, so we can visually inspect them. We can look at their teeth, we can give them injections, we can draw blood, we can treat wounds, pretty much everything you would bring your dog to the vet for is what our training program is about."

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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