Over the hump for a happy ending at the zoo.
Khoomii didn't have the easiest start in life but thanks to his lovely mother, Hettie and the dedication of our Camel Team, he is back with his Mother and drinking naturally in his enclosure.
This is a day-by-day log on what happened in the first three weeks of Khoomii's life.
Day 1 – 27th February 2020
Mid-morning, the Keepers head to the camel enclosure for normal jobs and saw that heavily pregnant seven-year-old camel, Hettie, was showing signs of being in labour.
Hettie was struggling to give birth and so the vet was called to give assistance and at 3.30pm, a baby camel arrived. Camel calf was making attempts to stand but was wobbly. As it was important to get 10% of the calf body weight in milk into him, the team bottle fed him from the ground.
6am – Keepers arrived early to check on calf. Saw Baby still struggling and was not standing. This was unusual and when the team looked closer, they saw that the feet did not look right. The vet was called straight away and she diagnosed that the camel had under developed cartilage in his feet. This could have also been the reason for Hettie’s struggles in labour as baby might not have been able to get into the right position. The vet stated that the baby camel was not premature and noticed his ears were also flat to head and not stuck up, confirming her diagnosis of underdeveloped cartilage.
Treatment was to encourage the baby to continue to stand and get him up on his feet as much as possible for as long as possible to strengthen the feet. Hettie was becoming very protective of her son. This would lead to the keepers not being able to intervene and so the decision was made to separate the baby into an adjoining enclosure, as he was still next to his Mum but the Keepers were still able to get to the baby for treatment and feeding.
The team set up a heat lamp and shelter next to Mum and continued with the bottle feeds.
The team continue to help baby to stand, however seeing improvements every time, it seems to be easier for him to get up.
He is still being bottle fed, but Hettie is being very patient and allowing the Keepers to milk her so that her milk is continuing to flow but also it means Keepers can get all of the nutrients into the baby. So the baby is having 2 litres of milk a day, half from Mum and half is commercial lamb colostrum.
On this day, the team decided on a name. Due to the noises he made during his birth, Keepers decided to call him Khoomii.
This is a type of Mongolian throat singing and as Bactrian Camels are found in Mongolia, it seemed like an apt name.
The keepers arrived at 6.30am, to find Khoomii had snuck under the gate to be with Mum and was standing (shakily) next to her. Massive success. He is still being bottle-fed and his strengthening continues.
The Vet comes to check on Khoomii and is very happy with his progress and happy for him to go back in with Mum.
On this day, the Keepers kept him a little hungrier than usual to encourage natural feeding and then he went back in with Mum. Khoomii was looking in the right area for the milk but wasn’t drinking, so Keepers kept monitoring the situation.
Keepers skipped the first meal of the day to see if it would encourage Khoomii to drink straight from Hettie, included bottle feeds to keep him fed.
Keepers were observing Khoomii and found he didn’t like to be at udder height. Due to being bottle-fed, he was used to fed from up high. Keepers started lowering his bottle feeds so they were at a more natural height.
This morning, Keepers didn’t bottle feed Khoomii but instead encourage him to drink from his Mum’s teats but unfortunately, he is too big and strong and was resisting, still looking for his bottle. So keepers held Khoomii under Hettie and held bottle at udder height and all three feeds were fed from there, to encourage him to drink in that position, The Keepers continued to milk Hettie, for Khoomii to drink from a bottle. This is important as a mum’s milk has natural antibodies, which help build a strong immune system. If Keepers did not keep milking Hettie, there was a chance her milk would dry up then there would be nothing for Khoomii to drink and he would have to stay a bottle-fed camel.
Keepers fed Khoomii smaller bottles at Mum’s udder and kept him slightly hungry to encourage him to look for milk himself. There were more signs that he knew milk came from Mum’s udder.
When keepers arrived to milk Hettie, they were surprised to see that Hettie didn’t have much milk and they were worried because Khoomii was not drinking, that Hettie was no longer producing. When Keepers came back around 10am, they saw the sight they’d waited for almost two weeks – Khoomii was drinking from his Mum! Getting a baby animal who has been separated from Mum and bottle-fed for two weeks, to latch back onto his Mum to drink is an incredible achievement.
Khoomii and Hettie went outside their enclosure and into the field for the first time. Separated by a fence from Father, Icarus and Auntie Martha, Khoomii and Hettie enjoyed some fresh air and sunshine. Khoomii kept close by to his Mother but seemed intrigued by the outside world. He will be kept separate from his Dad and Auntie for his safety. His Dad is only 4 years old and quite a young camel and therefore can be quite boisterous and bitey, so for now, Khooomii and his Dad can interact over the fence.
At three weeks old, Khoomii is doing so well. His feet are improving every single day and like a normal young camel, he is causing mischief. He is drinking loads from Mum, enjoying being nearby to Auntie Martha and Dad, and running around a lot.
Keep an eye out on social media for more Khoomii updates!