Quick action by keepers and vets at the Oregon Zoo has led to the survival of a young Speke’s gazelle abandoned by its mother at birth.

Excitement at the birth of Juliet, an endangered Speke’s gazelle on November 18 was soon over taken by worry when it became evident that mum Pansy was failing to provide adequate care. Keepers discovered Juliet feeling cold to the touch and being butted by Pansy’s horns, a behaviour which generally indicates aggression the morning after her birth.

As a result Juliet was taken to the intensive care unit at the vet hospital of the zoo. “The rest of the day involved some heroic efforts on the part of our vet staff,” said zoo curator Amy Cutting. “It was touch and go for 36 hours or so while vet staff struggled to maintain her temperature and hydration.”

Spekes gazelle

Once stabilised vets were able to sedate the calf to take a blood draw which was used for transfusions into the calf.

She also didn’t miss out on the all-important colostrum. This is a special milk produced by the mother following the birth which is enhanced with antibodies to help keep her healthy. Keepers milked some from Pansy which was given to Juliet using a tube.

While keepers are not entirely sure what caused her to be abandoned senior keeper of Oregon Zoo’s African section, Laura Weiner explained that, “With gazelles, it’s not uncommon for first-time moms to struggle. The calf has had some trouble figuring out how to nurse, but otherwise, she’s doing well.”

Picking up strength quickly thanks to two hourly bottle feeds by staff from 7am to 10pm each day she was soon ready to move back home to the zoo’s African savannah area.

The gazelle which had less than a month ago been on death’s door was now a healthy 2.7kg (5lb) and bounding playfully around the room which she had called home . This marked an important step in her life with keepers hoping she can “live a normal gazelle life, and not be too bonded to humans.”

The name Juliet was seen to be a deviation from the normal tradition of Pansy’s family where “the females … have been named after flowers” though Weiner explained that they have “recently learned there’s a variety of rose called Juliet — maybe that’s close enough for the Rose City.”

Spekes gazelle

While she may be living on the savannah with the herd keeper’s still give her a bottle five times a day and keep a close eye on her.

The dedication and effort of her keeper’s is seen to be worth it to save this endangered gazelle. Already extinct in Ethiopia due to hunting this species is managing to cling on in Somalia but faces stiff competition from war, hunting and overgrazing.

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

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