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Idaho Falls Zoo welcomes surprise baby camel

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - The Idaho Falls Zoo received an unexpected gift over the holidays. Zoo staff were surprised to learn a female Bactrian camel was pregnant when the baby suddenly started to come.

On the afternoon of November 16, 2015, a zookeeper in the area noticed the adult female Bactrian camel acting a little differently. "She was laying down, pacing, rolling and overall just acting a bit strange," says Linda Beard, interim zoo superintendent. "I told the keeper that she was displaying calving behavior, but since she and the bull were so young that seemed unlikely. Needless to say, we were all pleasantly surprised a short time later."

In the wild, camels are able to reproduce by the age of five, and a Bactrian camel is pregnant for 13 months. Mom, who is named Zazu, came to the Idaho Falls Zoo as a bottle-raised newborn in 2011 and was just 4 ½ at the time of the birth of the calf. Dad, who is called Gobi, is not quite 4 years old right now and came to the zoo at 2 ½ years of age, almost exactly 13 months prior to the birth of the new calf.

"Some may ask how that is possible at such an early age. In captivity, camels can reach sexual maturity earlier as they have access to a plentiful food supply and receive excellent animal care," explains Beard.

The new baby camel is being cared for by staff since the young mother camel isn't producing enough milk for the new baby.

In honor of Star Wars, the zoo staff named the new calf ZooBacca and have nicknamed her Zowie. Zowie is doing very well and is growing fast. She remains in an adjacent holding area next to her parents, and zoo staff is hoping to allow her to join them on exhibit later this spring or summer.

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