BABY ELEPHANT IN CRITICAL CONDITION
(Pittsburgh) (August 2017) For a few weeks we have been writing updates on our elephant calf’s teething process. As adults, we often do not remember what it feels like, but as parents we can often vividly recall how miserable children are when they are teething.
Our elephant has been experiencing this same discomfort. One of the side effects of a sore mouth is a diminished appetite. Sometimes the calf starts to eat, but then pushes her bottle away. Other times, she gulps down her bottle. Unfortunately, this erratic eating pattern has caused her to stop gaining weight.
Normally with a full-term elephant calf, this would not be a problem, but our little calf was born premature and underweight, making every pound all the more important for her. Right now, however, she has not been able to reach the milestone of gaining weight.
For the past couple of days the baby has not been adequately eating and has been placed hospital care. At this time, a feeding tube was inserted to provide her with her dietary needs every two hours.
We were hoping that when we were able to pump milk from Nan, one of our female elephants who is still producing milk, we would be able to provide a valuable fatty supplement alongside the milk replacement. We recently sent Nan’s milk to be analyzed to determine if it contains a high enough fat content since the composition of milk can change after years of nursing. The nutritional analysis showed the formula and Nan’s milk provide an appropriate diet for the little calf. She is still not eating the amounts we would like to see at this stage though.
We reached out to experts at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who care for orphaned elephant calves in the wild. This helped us ensure we have all of the information to care for the calf. They eased our concerns somewhat when they said calves typically do not want to eat during teething, which can result in weight loss. They also sleep more and are irritable. The experts also cautioned us that there are times when the little calves do not recover.
We appreciate everyone’s support and love for this baby. We know that our visitors are anxious to see her and we are looking forward to showing her off, but for now we are primarily focused on her well-being, taking it day-by-day, with no set schedule.