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Hormone Help: Calgary Zoo Hopes Unusual Step Will Result in Healthy Baby Giraffe

September 27, 2019 8:09 AM | The Canadian Press

By The Canadian Press


Emara the giraffe is seen in the African pavillion at the Calgary Zoo in a June 2019 handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Calgary Zoo)

CALGARY — Staff at the Calgary Zoo have adopted an extraordinary measure in an effort to ensure a pregnant giraffe becomes a mother for the first time.

Emara, a Masai giraffe, is expecting for the fourth time, but her previous pregnancies ended in two miscarriages and the death of a third calf with severe birth defects.

Emara’s fecal samples, collected after the calf died, indicated a decrease in her progesterone levels throughout her pregnancy.

The decline in the hormone is believed to have been the cause.

So when zoo staff discovered last year that Emara was pregnant again, a decision was made to give her progesterone supplements.

Zoo officials say there are no records of such treatment on a giraffe, although it has been successfully used on a rhinoceros.

Progesterone supplements are commonly provided to women, as well as domestic animals, with a history of miscarriage.

“Her zookeepers were devastated when Emara experienced two late- term miscarriages and, subsequently, a calf that died within 48 hours after birth in recent years,” said Dr. Doug Whiteside, senior staff veterinarian for the zoo.

“Pregnancy issues is giraffes are rare so we have been working with specialists and zoos across North America to help Emara successfully become a mom.”

Whiteside said Emara’s hormone levels have been in a good range and staff are optimistic she’ll have a healthy baby this time.

Emara’s due date is in mid-October. The average gestation period of a giraffe is 15 months.

“As soon as we see signs that she’s going into labour, then we’ll actually move her into one of the back bedroom areas, so she can be on her own, away from the other giraffes so they don’t disturb her.”

Emara arrived at the Calgary Zoo in the summer of 2016 from the San Diego Zoo. (CTV Calgary)

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