Sunday’s child that fought for its life

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  12. 08. 2023

I missed the first two mountain bongos this year – by that I mean I did not see them on the day they were born - but the third one was a Sunday baby and I managed to be there. I found it lying at the feet of his now 14-year-old mother Maureen, who was watching me attentively. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Unfortunately, it didn't last long.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

Shortly after giving birth, Maureen had a partial prolapse of her uterus and it was necessary to give her a veterinary operation under anaesthesia. Unfortunately, Maureen was not well at all following the operation, she couldn’t eat, much less nurse her calf. The prognosis for both her and the calf - a female - was not favourable. Although the calf received milk, collected from Maureen during the anaesthesia, at the time our colleagues did not see bottle feeding her as a good option. This was due to the risk of digestive and, in particular, behavioural problems in adulthood.

It saddens me greatly to say, that, after a few days, Maureen died, and it seemed that this would seal the fate of her calf. But the little female fought for her life, successfully! Thanks to the fact that she was a full member of the herd, she had started drinking from both other females- the mothers of previous calves - prior to Maureen’s death, and one of them even took her on as one of her own. That made the difference: when the calf becomes part of the group, it largely eliminates the negative impact of bottle feeding, and this is how, we hope, we can save Maureen's daughter.

The feeders arranged for a supply of goat's milk, and we waited with bated breath to see whether the orphaned female would be willing to accept it, and, also, how she would be able to digest it. I think her willingness to accept this substitute is clearly evidenced by the photograph we took at the time and digestion also appears to be fine. What’s more, the calf continues to suckle profusely from both "aunts".

At the moment, the calf is making a tentative start to grazing and is also consuming alfalfa, browse and hay. She has quite gone off the goat's milk, but continues to suckle from the females, one of them in particular. So maybe we will see a happy ending after all...