Many are wondering why a female who has been in labor for estimates of three weeks or more isn’t having a cesarean section to deliver her baby. People all over the world are wincing at the thought of a laboring mother that has endured day after day of uterine contractions with no appearance of a baby. Surely a human mother would have died of exhaustion or a major complication like excessive bleeding or uterine rupture. Many wonder why veterinarians aren’t intervening to help the giraffe. This is not her first birth — she has given birth to three prior healthy giraffes with no difficulties, according to Animal Adventure Park. What is the difficulty now, or is there one?
There seems to be no difficulty other than the time element. When watching the live feed of the giraffe in her solitary quarters at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, there have been few if any moments where April seems to be in true distress or pain, according to IBTimes. In fact, she eats, sleeps, eliminates normally, and while the livestream cam shows her lift her tail and plant her hind legs far apart during a contraction, she then quickly recovers and nonchalantly paces the enclosure, occasionally arching her neck as though she’s in heavy concentration, but soon thereafter takes up normal giraffe activities.
Many people are beginning to wonder why April is not getting help from veterinarians to deliver this baby that is said by zoo workers to be “turning somersaults” in her laboring womb but still has made no appearance. Surely, despite her stoic appearance, the mother is tired. So why the wait? Quite simply, veterinarians say, there is a high probability that a Cesarean section, relatively safe and usually without major complications in humans, could kill the giraffe or her calf. In fact, there’s a 50 percent chance that it would — frightening statistics for the beautiful animal and her already-much-loved baby calf. So, unless something else emergent occurs that would threaten April’s life or the life of her unborn calf, it is medically prudent to allow her to labor naturally, and understand that giraffe labors are quite different from human labors. Giraffes are frankly a hardier species when it comes to some things — and not nearly as good at handling surgical intervention as other animals.
There isn’t a tremendous amount of literature on cesarean sections on giraffes, and that’s because there have only been two documented instances in history. Veterinarians say that the need for a cesarean section, based upon these previous instances, would be the “worst possible outcome” for April. Of the two interventional cesarean sections on giraffes in history, the first was in 2007—and it was a success. The second was performed in 2012, and the calf was already dead that the time of the surgery, but the mother survived without long-term difficulties, other than the grief of a dead calf. Animals have been shown to grieve the death of offspring similar to ways in which humans do, studies show.
Dr. Lisa Argilla, the manager of veterinary science at Wellington Zoo in New Zealand, said in 2012 that one of the biggest hurdles in operating on animals as large as giraffes is that anesthesia is still somewhat of a new practice of them, and the chances of them waking up during surgery are high, which could lead to deadly outcomes for mother, baby, and staff.
“This is because when they wake up they’re still a bit wobbly and their instinct is to stand up, which could result in serious injury. That’s a very dangerous period for both the giraffe and the handlers because obviously they are hanging on to a one-ton animal that can just chuck them off at any time.”
Although the question of cesarean section is a valid one, the answer is that the last thing the world at large wants to hear is that April is having a Cesarean section. Instead, many will keep vigil of her over web-cam, where zookeepers have had nothing but positive updates about April and no mention of surgical intervention. A recent post from the zoo was quite positive, according to their official Facebook page.
“What a long evening! Many of you were up with us around 1:30 am EDT and the following hours and witnessed some very interesting behavior that had us on edge. Though, this morning, all has seemed to settle. We will continue to watch and monitor throughout the day.”
[Featured Image by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]