Miami-Dade County

Zoo Miami celebrates a birth and mourns a death in the same week

Zoo Miami’s newborn giraffe Princess Buttercup is welcomed by the rest of the herd of the exhibit on Wednesday.
Zoo Miami’s newborn giraffe Princess Buttercup is welcomed by the rest of the herd of the exhibit on Wednesday. Zoo Miami

These are bittersweet times for Zoo Miami.

Zookeepers are celebrating the birth of a 108-pound female giraffe while mourning the loss of a baby okapi that died hours after its birth.

The baby giraffe, named Princess Buttercup and standing more than five feet tall, made its first appearance on exhibit early Wednesday morning.

Zoo Communications Director Ron Magill admitted that he was worried when she joined the herd. Some “young punk” teenage giraffes started jumping and kicking.

Fortunately, Princess Buttercup’s 4 1/2-year-old mother, Sabra, has been protective of her firstborn baby, who remained nestled in a shady corner of the exhibit through the day.

Princess Buttercup’s April 8 arrival was the 47th giraffe birth in the zoo’s history. And another giraffe, Mia, is expected to give birth any day now.

The joy was tempered with the death two days later of the first okapi born at Zoo Miami.

“This was going to be the most impactful birth for the zoo in years,” Magill said about the okapi, a rare distant relative of the giraffe.

The pregnancy, which was monitored carefully, was normal. But the baby calf was born at 30 pounds, which is underweight. Newborn okapi typically weigh between 45 and 50 pounds.

Initial results from a necropsy show the low birth weight and some possible anomalies of the heart as reasons for the death. Further testing is being done.

Over the past few years, the zoo has felt the circle of life.

Clouded leopards, an Arabian oryx and a nyala have been born. A longtime koala, an “Ambassador Cheetah” and an elephant have died.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that the zoo is not Disney World with animatronic animals,” Magill said.

He explained that many animals have been with the zoo for 35 years and are now becoming feeble.

Follow @kathdevaney on Twitter.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments