WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO)– Bramble Park Zoo welcomed a baby camel, Token, into their camel family about four weeks ago.

Olivia Wulff, Zookeeper and Zoo Record Keeper at Bramble Park Zoo, said they have a camel calf born at the zoo about every other year.

“They are always super quirky and fun when they are born,” Wulff said. “We sometimes have to pull them from their mom because the mothers don’t raise them or they’re born in unfavorable conditions, like a blizzard or a storm or something. After careful observations, we usually pull them and hand raise or bottle feed them.”

Token was was born during a blizzard and he is very friendly because he is used to being bottle fed, Wulff said. When he was born, he wasn’t standing, which means he couldn’t nurse. They were watching him as close as they could without upsetting the mother, she said. After a couple hours, knowing that he needed colostrum, the zookeepers decided that they needed to pull him from his mother and brought him inside and hand raised him.

“He is doing very well,” Wulff said. “He is definitely the tallest, largest calf that I have ever work with here at the zoo.”

When they first weighed him, he was 124 pounds, Wulff said. They weighed him again about two weeks ago and he came in at 145 pounds.

Token did have an infection in his back, right knee, but other than that, he has been doing well, Wulff said. They took him to the vet clinic for radiographs, and they started him on steroids and antibiotics under the supervision of their consulting veterinarian, Dr. Andrea Hennen at Glacial Lake Veterinary Clinic.

He took his medication pretty well, but was not a fan of the injections, but he did well, Wulff said. He has made what seems to be a full recovery.

“He definitely has a lot of personality, he’s spunky, is really curious about his surroundings and being very observant,” Wulff said.

The zookeepers feed him five times per day.

Wulff says her co-worker, Michelle Miller, is in charge of the hand raising of the calves and baby animals at the zoo, and is very knowledgeable of the hand raising process.

They won’t finish weaning out Token in Watertown, he will go to another zoo. They are working on moving him to the zoo in Wahpeton, North Dakota, Wulff said.

Wulff said they won’t normally keep him in their herd because they can’t add him back due to his father being the male in the herd. They have four camels at the zoo, consisting of one male and three females, and they don’t plan on adding more to their herd.

The camels in their herd are Bactrian camels, native to colder weather climates, so they do very well in the cold weather like in South Dakota, and they also seem to do fairly well in the summertime when they shed their coats, Wulff said.

“We are just lovin’ up on Token and he seems to be thriving and being his quirky little self,” Wulff said.

Saying goodbye to a longtime resident

Bramble Park Zoo said goodbye to its longterm jaguar, 21-year-old Brutus, who has been at the zoo since he was three months old.

The zoo euthanized Brutus on Monday, April 5, due to failing health.

John Gilman, zookeeper at Bramble Park Zoo, said that Brutus had been in failing health for many years and he ended up getting a urinary infection, which was really hard on his body.

A memorial to Brutus in the zoo

“It’s the hardest decision you ever have to make here when it comes to any animal, it’s a really hard decision to decide when it is actually time,” Gilman said. “It’s one of our many hard things that we have to do here as zookeepers. It’s hard to make that decision when the time comes.”

Gilman said they don’t notice the animals missing him or anything like that. Cats tend to be very solitary to begin with.

They have not decided if they will get another big cat or not yet or exactly what they are going to do, Gilman said. It is a little too soon to tell.

Operating a zoo during a pandemic

Dan Miller, Zoo Director at Bramble Park Zoo, said they really low on attendance last year because of the pandemic.

“One thing that was surprising is that our gift sales were up and I think that for most zoos, even though we less people,” Miller said.

The zoo has been seeing larger crowds this year, Miller said. However, they still want people to follow the mask recommendations while visiting the zoo.

“We want staff to wear masks,” Miller said. One reason for this is because some of the cats are susceptible to COVID-19, as well as ferrets and otters. They also put up some barriers around the cats so the public cannot get close to them. They have also put a lot of hand sanitizers around.

They have had some staff members that have gotten COVID-19, but they have recovered and some have been vaccinated or are planning to get vaccinated, Miller said.

Miller said they will not be doing any special events until June. They have some school groups who will be coming to the zoo and they want to have that social distancing. Through parks and rec, they will also be offering some zoo programs.

“I think it’s important because most of these kids are never going to be able to go to Africa, never going to be able to go to Siberia or to South America to see these exotic animals,” Miller said. “We have animals from all the way around the world, so it is a unique opportunity for kids and adults alike.”

Miller wants to encourage people to visit the zoo, “we would love to see you!”

Learn more about the new animal care center

Bramble park zoo is set up open a new animal care center in June.