Elephant calf struggles for its life

Staff at zoo in Ostrava try tube feeding and have reached out to zoos across the world for help

Ostrava, north Moravia, Feb. 6 (ČTK) — Experts in the Ostrava zoo are struggling to keep alive the elephant young that was born Tuesday but has refused to drink from its mother, the zoo’s spokeswoman Šárka Kalousková told the Czech News Agency, adding that the attendants attempted tube-feeding the calf today.

The attendants have repeatedly failed to feed the calf with a milk replacer, owing to its underdeveloped sucking reflex.

At first, they tried to feed the calf without separating it from its mother Vishesh, who was given tranquilizers.

“Unfortunately, it turned out that the young’s sucking reflex is not developed enough,” Kalousková said.

The attendants succeeded in separating the young and placing a tube providing enteral feeding to it, she said. Immediately afterward, the young was reunited with its mother, who fortunately accepted it.

In the hours to come, the attendants will try to encourage the calf to start drinking. As Vishesh firmly protects her offspring, the procedure will be extremely demanding and its effect uncertain, Kalousková said.

On Wednesday, the zoo keepers unsuccessfully tried to feed the young from a bottle with a milk replacer across the barriers surrounding the elephants’ enclosure.

Vishesh has been kept in a so-called “protected contact” regime, which means she is not accustomed to coming into direct contact with people.

Since Czech zoos have no experience with such a complicated case, the Ostrava zoo last night reached out to experts all over the world.

“We’ve found out that in the past a similar situation was addressed by a few zoos, where they succeeded in restarting the calf’s sucking reflex after several days of bottle feeding and the calf then learned to drink milk from its mother. In all cases, however, the mothers were “contact” elephants, whose manipulation is easier and less dangerous,” Kalousková said.

Unfortunately, the situation in Ostrava with Vishesh is totally different, she said.

1 Comment

  1. Why do you refer to Vishesh as ‘it’, as if she were an inanimate object? The Czech original would have shown her gender, but, for some reason, the translator mis-translated this. Perhaps you need another translator who understands pronouns in English.

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