He spent just one month on this Earth and he never spoke a word, but his struggle touched a nerve — and melted a lot of hearts.
On Sunday, condolences continued to pour in for Julius, a baby giraffe at the Maryland Zoo who was euthanized a day earlier. Julius, who was born June 15, was never able to nurse effectively and contended with health problems throughout his short life. The zoo's updates on the giraffe's health through a daily blog and under #TeamJulius on social media captivated many.
“Despite intensive medical interventions, tube feeding and around the clock care, Julius remained a critical patient,” Dr. Samantha Sander, associate veterinarian at the zoo, said in a statement. “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.”
Nearly 9,000 people offered words of sympathy on the zoo's Facebook page, and the zoo set up an online memory wall that attracted hundreds more. Many commended the efforts of the zoo's staff who fed Julius special formula, tried to teach him to bottle feed and gave him transfusions of a giraffe plasma from the Columbus and Cheyenne Mountain zoos.
"So sorry to hear about Julius. He has brought many together in ways not thought possible. My heart goes out to team Julius, and I cannot imagine your grief," read one of the messages on the memory wall.
"Julius' legacy will live on in the knowledge gained from his short life, the increased interest in giraffes and the love engendered from far and wide," wrote another.
Julius was born 143 pounds and six feet tall to mother Kesi, which is normal for a newborn giraffe. However, because he wasn't nursing and receiving needed antibodies from his mother's milk, nutrition and immune system issues were concerns. One week after his birth the zoo reported that he was showing some progress in bottle feeding and had gained a few pounds, but zoo officials said the staff was continuing around-the-clock care.
The zoo said it selected the name Julius to further instill a fighting spirit in the sweet-faced giraffe. "The name means ‘youthful, downy-bearded,’ both of which he is,” Erin Cantwell, mammal collection and conservation manager, said on the zoo's blog. “But for us, the name Julius is a strong name representing his bloodline with his father Caesar. We are certainly hoping this name gives him added strength as we continue to provide around-the-clock specialized care for him.”
In 2015, the death of another baby giraffe saw a similar outpouring of grief. Kipenzi, whose live-streamed birth at the Dallas Zoo thrilled thousands worldwide, died when she broke her neck inside the giraffe enclosure.
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