FARGO — In the midst of a human pandemic comes a bright spot from the animal kingdom here.
The Red River Zoo has welcomed a female Bactrian camel, born March 14.
Despite the zoo being closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members are working to ensure the health and safety of the new addition, as well as the other animals.
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Sally Jacobson, executive director of the zoo at 4255 23rd Ave. S., said the calf was born healthy, but weighing 114 pounds at birth, was a bit larger than most.
“Due to that legginess, she had a little bit of difficulty learning how to nurse. We just couldn’t get her in the right position,” Jacobson said.
As a result, staff members made the decision to bottle feed the baby under the care of its mother every three hours, around the clock.
Since the mother's milk supply has diminished, the baby camel is getting the same kind of formula that farmers feed to goat "kids," Jacobson said.
“She gets 250 ounces each day at this point. Uffdah!” she said.
The work has paid off, because the camel now weighs a healthy 130 pounds.
The baby is being kept with its mother, primarily, but is brought into an arena at the zoo to exercise.
“She’s got to be used to humans but act like a camel,” Jacobson said.
Caring for the new addition, along with all of the other zoo animals, has become more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jacobson said staff has been divided into two teams working different shifts, so they never come in contact with each other.
If someone has to quarantine themselves, the zoo has ensured that enough staff members are cross trained in the care of the animals, she said.
They’re doing that with a smaller staff, as they operate in a sort of “emergency mode.”
The zoo relies financially on school groups and other events in the spring, and without those, it’s had to cut some employees, Jacobson said.
It costs about $100,000 a month to operate the zoo, she said.
“You could see how, if this lasts too long, it could get a little scary fairly quickly for us,” she said.
Fortunately, people have been renewing memberships despite the zoo not being open at this time, she said. The zoo also has an emergency fund on its website where donations are being accepted.
As for the new baby camel, she doesn’t have a name yet. Keep an eye out for a naming contest, which will be done online.
Meantime, people can see the new baby camel on the Red River Zoo's Facebook page and will be able to see her in person when it resumes normal operations.
“We can’t wait until we can start letting people back in,” Jacobson said.