Julius the Giraffe has dies
JULIUS UPDATE: It’s hard to even write the words. Julius is gone. After weeks of effort, intensive medical treatments and round-the-clock hands on care, today the team made a decision they never wanted to have to make. Since Julius’ birth and the beginning of his battle, we knew his chances of survival were limited, but that never stopped the team from stepping up to provide him every care and comfort, and exhausting all treatment options. If you’ve been following his journey, you know the effort has been intense, guided by collaboration between our giraffe experts and animal professionals from all over the country. In the end, we are saddened that this extraordinary effort wasn't enough to save him and the entire Maryland Zoo family is feeling this loss very deeply, as we know you are feeling it, too.
When working with animals it's often the underlying issues that aren't easily identifiable or solved that prove most challenging, even with the best science and skill. We hope to learn more about what health issues, if any, might have been complicating Julius' critical condition. In his short life, he has already helped the Zoo and other giraffe care facilities gain vast knowledge that will aid future calves who may face similar issues in our collective efforts to save and safeguard this species.
Julius impacted a large following of fans who wanted, like us, to see him thrive. The Zoo has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, concern and prayers for him. We simply can’t explain the positive impact your support has had on the team working day and night with him.
The Zoo team and #TeamJulius is not just made of animal experts but also animal lovers, including you. This type of decision is one of the hardest parts of a Zoo team member’s job and a blanket of grief lays over the entire Zoo family as you read this. The support of TeamJulius on this journey has been a true inspiration and we are comforted knowing Julius’ memory will live on with you.
This won’t be the last #TeamJulius message, but we, like you, will be taking some time to process the last few weeks and will move forward on behalf of the rest of the giraffe herd who continue to act as ambassadors for such a valuable and vulnerable species.
He had a very challenging start to life, and it is with heavy hearts that The Maryland Zoo announces the death of young giraffe calf, Julius. “It’s hard to put our emotions into words right now,” said Don Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Zoo. “Our veterinary staff and our animal care team put their lives on hold to try and nurse Julius back to health, and every avenue was explored. Sadly, he was unable to survive in spite of their Herculean efforts.”
Julius was born to first time mother Kesi during the early morning hours of Thursday, June 15, 2017. Despite the wonderful maternal care provided by Kesi, Julius was never able to learn to nurse effectively. Staff began to supplement him with a special colostrum formula within 24-hours and attempted to teach him to bottle feed. In order to boost his immune system, he was given two transfusions of giraffe plasma, from the Columbus and Cheyenne Mountain Zoos, as well as multiple courses of antibiotics, IV fluids, and other intensive care in order to provide nutritional support and to stabilize his condition. Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital also provided clinical support for the implementation of a Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) IV formula, as well as generously donating the TPN to the Zoo.
“Despite intensive medical interventions, tube feeding and around the clock care, Julius remained a critical patient,” stated Dr. Samantha Sander, associate veterinarian at the Zoo. “His condition took a sharp turn downward overnight, and we had to make the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him. This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping for, but we rest assured that we did everything we possibly could medically to prevent him from any distress.”
“There are dozens of people who have provided assistance along this journey with Julius,” said Mike McClure, general curator at the Zoo. “From zoo giraffe experts to veterinarians to nutritionists and human doctors and pediatric specialists, we utilized every available resource to us. We are incredibly grateful to each and every one, including the exceptional assistance of the staff and giraffe herds at The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Without them, we would have run out of options far sooner.”
“A necropsy will be done to try and determine what put Julius at this health deficit from the beginning,” continued Sander. “Sometimes there are underlying issues that are not able to be identified or solved by even the best science and skill. Julius’ short life will help gain vast knowledge not only for us, but for other facilities as we all continue to face similar issues in our efforts to save and safeguard the species.”
“We would like to thank the thousands of people from around the world who have sent positive thoughts and prayers to Julius and the staff here at the Zoo,” concluded Hutchinson. “The outpouring of support has indeed bolstered everyone at the Zoo, and most especially the people who have been working directly with Julius and the rest of the giraffe herd through this very trying time.”
Jen Rudolph To your animal care team, the zoo staff, and all those who have been affected by this loss, I send you all the love and light. Your hard work has been an immense gift to your giraffes and to your entire animal family. Thinking of all of you during this time.
Michelle Chadzutko Frankie So incredibly sad to hear this, but know you did everything possible for this calf and The Maryland Zoo should be proud of themselves because your mission is the conservation and health of these amazing animals! As difficult as this is, please know that your community tremendously thanks you for your around the clock efforts!
Another chapter of Julius’s story has come to a close and its contents make us more sure his legacy and the lessons we learned from him will continue on to help other giraffe calves like him.
A necropsy (an animal autopsy) was performed by doctors at Johns Hopkins and lab tests were poured over. The resulting report showed lesions on the left side of Julius’ brain and near the brainstem. Many followers of his story noted Julius’ endearing head tilt. This quirk was something the Zoo team noted from the start, and we now know was likely a symptom of his brain abnormalities. The lesions also link to Julius’ acute feeding challenges. Effects of his brainstem lesion on his tongue’s dexterity ultimately prevented Julius from eating successfully, gaining weight, and developing a healthy immune system, even with extensive around-the-clock efforts from the animal care and veterinary teams.
We will never know definitively, as is sometimes the case in animal and even human medical care, what caused the initial lesions in Julius’ brain. They could be a result of oxygen being cut off from his brain in the womb or during birth, though there were no signs of distress witnessed by the team during the birth process. What we do know is that everything we have learned from the report of Julius’ final exam, as well as the lessons in specialized calf care and feeding methods he gave to us, are already being shared with other Zoo professionals and benefiting giraffe calves in other parts of the country.
Thank you to everyone who followed Julius’ journey – the members of #TeamJulius – for standing by us and pouring your support into Julius’s struggle. Know that the level of expert care and extensive scientific follow up in Julius’ case is the standard, not the exception, of care every animal at this Zoo receives. Not every case garners the attention Julius did, and that’s ok, we do the work for the animals. But, in those very special cases where one animal’s short life touches thousands, the awareness that brings to the threatened species, like giraffes, that we are working to conserve is a pretty good bonus.
We’ve set up an online memory store for Julius so that giraffe lovers all over the world who fell in love
with our little calf
JuliusTeam` Store Available Now, You Can Order: Here