Giraffe at Omaha zoo saves life of baby giraffe at Lincoln Children’s Zoo

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Sweet baby Kay hasn’t always had this smile on her face.

When she was born at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo earlier this year, she was unable to be fed by her mom.

“One of the consequences of that is she didn’t get that first milk feeding which is called colostrum which is incredibly important to developing an immune system and being able to prevent illness and things like that. Over the next day or two, she actually developed a severe infection and became very ill,” said Trent Shrader, Lincoln Children’s Zoo director of medicine.

The entire team in Lincoln rushed to do whatever they could to save baby Kay’s life. That meant reaching out to zoos all over the nation for help.

“It was terrifying,” Shrader said.

Thankfully, just up the road at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, 14-year-old Jawara was already working with his trainers to give blood.

“Only in the past three or so months did he get very reliable with the blood draw. That means he will allow us to stick the jugular with the needle and he will stick around for an extended amount of time to let us draw,” said Josh Shandera, Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo senior hoofstock keeper.

Trainer Josh Shandera said that blood draw now allows Jawara to give life-saving plasma, something he said has taken years to even be able to get to this point.

“When collecting plasma, it’s important to build duration with blood draws because that entails a needle stick and the drawing blood for a 10 to 15 minute period and that’s really beneficial to calves at other zoos.”

Thanks to the help of Jawara, baby Kay is now healthy and growing.

Now that Jawara can give plasma, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is working to make sure they can save other lives.

They are joining a national plasma bank to help make sure they can help protect the species that are quickly dwindling in the wild.

“But to get to contribute to big picture stuff that works to save the giraffe species as a whole — that for me is very rewarding and what it’s all about. The goal for not only us here in Omaha, but zoos is to create a healthy, viable giraffe population for years to come,” Shandera said.

Now the Lincoln Children’s Zoo is working to train their giraffes to give plasma so they can give back.

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