Giraffe crisis – the full story

Those who follow me on my Facebook page will have heard a little about this story, but may be interested in the details.

Around noon on new years day a pregnant female giraffe was spotted on the farm with one of her babies legs sticking out of her rear end. She seemed to be in distress. By 2 pm we were getting worried about her so we called the local vet to attend to her.

We had quite a bit to prepare before the vet could dart her. We had to have 8 adults who could sit on her once she was darted and we needed many liters of cold water to keep her cool while the vet worked.  We recruited everyone we could find and filled up our fire tank so that by the time the vet arrived we would be ready.

At 2.30 we could not find the pregnant giraffe so search groups were sent out to look while my sister and I let the vet into the reserve.  He loaded up his dart gun and we joined the search groups just as they found her. The baby had just fallen to the ground. (3pm)

Our vet explained that this was very unusual because if only one leg is out they normally get stuck.  He was relieved though, because if he had had to dart her, the chances of the baby surviving were very low.

We all sat quietly about 50 meters away from the baby and mother behind some trees and watched the baby try to stand.  They are normally on their feet within 10 minutes.  If they are not up by 20 minutes one starts to worry.  Our baby tried very hard but could not get up.  The long and difficult birth had tired it out.  We left it as long as we possibly could because one does not like to meddle in the natural cycle. If you interfere with the baby you run the risk of the mother moving off with the herd and then we would have had to hand rear the baby.

After we waited an hour the vet said that the baby would die if we don’t get it up so he walked in very carefully trying not to chase the mother off too far but not wanting her to defend her calf, and he lifted the baby to its feet and held it up for a few minutes and then moved away so that the mother giraffe could approach her baby again.  He walked away and the baby fell to the ground after a minute or two of standing on its own.  After another 10 minutes he again went in and lifted the calf.  The situation was getting difficult now because the only way the baby would get some strength would be if it could drink some colostrum from its mother.  After a few more minutes the baby fell down again.

We then started calling around to cattle farmers in the area trying to find some cow colostrum but we were unsuccessful.

The vet left us at this stage and told us to keep lifting the calf every hour.  At 5.30 we went down to lift her up again and were so happy to find her on her feet.  We checked again at 6.30 pm and she was still up and was now moving around. She must have fed from her mother by this time because she was looking so good.  By morning the herd had moved off with the baby in tow.

Yesterday while on a game drive I spotted her with her mom again – looking well and happy.

Here are a couple of pictures taken by my friend Rina, of the calf with the vet as he was getting her up.

It was quite an eventful new years day and an awesome thing to experience.


13 thoughts on “Giraffe crisis – the full story

  1. Thanks Jackie! I’m glad to hear all went well. Hope the baby is doing good and will stay healthy and jumping. Have a great year for you and your family!


  2. Thank you for your post Wonderful story about the New Year’s Day giraffe. I read your story to my 6 and 8 year old son and daughter, we all really enjoyed it. Especially the happy ending. We love hearing about your slow life in rural South Africa. We live in Chicago in the U.S., so we don’t see many giraffe here.


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