There’s just something about babies that makes people feel better about themselves. Whether human babies or animal babies. And who doesn’t smile back when one of them smiles at you?
Everyone became so excited when the Maryland Zoo (marylandzoo.org) announced the birth of a “143-pound, six-foot-tall male reticulated giraffe during the early morning hours of Thursday, June 15, 2017.” Because of the pictures shared by the zoo of this adorable little creature, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people around the world fell in love with his impish grin.
But apparently there were concerns from the day of his birth. The baby was not nursing his mother. This can be a critical problem, not only for baby giraffes, but baby humans as well. In the first few days a mother’s milk produces what is known as colostrum, which provides vital protections against infections and disease for the newborn.
The Maryland Zoo carefully monitored baby Julius’s progress, and when it became apparent he was not receiving the nutrients or calories from his mom, they took to bottle feeding him. The Zoo’s website posted regular updates on his condition, but it seems doubtful that many people outside of the zoo and its followers were aware of baby Julius’s condition.
The veterinarian staff was initially encouraged as Julius began to gain weight and seemed to be improving. On June 28th they posted the following optimistic update:
“The Zoo’s newborn giraffe calf is two weeks old today! A week ago Julius was fighting for his life. Today, he’s a different giraffe, much more full of life.”
The report issued on July 3rd was a bit more concerning:
“His weight as of today is 159 lbs. Nutrition remains the top concern for Julius and bottle feedings continue to be a daily part of the routine. He’s still not mastered it, but with every time comes more important practice.”
The team at the Maryland Zoo continue to monitor his blood work and try variations on his formula to encourage his much-needed weight gain. But less than a week from the optimistic report of July 3rd, came some really bad news on July 9th:
“JULIUS UPDATE: This update is hard to share this morning. A sudden and major change in Julius’ blood work is a serious concern for the giraffe care and veterinary teams. Julius is now in an intensive care situation as the team works to stabilize him while continuing to focus on efforts to get him feeding from a bottle”
Despite the valiant efforts of the people working with Julius, on Saturday July 15th The Baltimore Sun reported that Julius “took a turn for the worse Friday. He was euthanized Saturday morning after zoo caretakers concluded he was no longer improving and that there was little else the staff could do for him.”
The world became a little bit darker and everyone a little bit sadder when that news quickly became public on the internet. Some might brush it off by saying “it was just an animal, what about human babies that die every day.” It’s true that Julius was an animal, but he was also one of God’s creatures also, and his passing diminishes God’s creation a little bit also.
And he left a gift for each and every one of us while he was here on Earth. He gave us the gift of his smile. Let’s try sharing that gift with the people around us.