Cincinnati Zoo Determines Cause of Death for Giraffe

Posted November 22, 2010

CINCINNATI, OH (November 22, 2010)   Akilah, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s beloved, three-year-old female Massai Giraffe,  passed away suddenly Saturday evening, November 20.   Staff at the Cincinnati Zoo are still mourning her tragic loss today.

Zoo veterinarians conducted a thorough necropsy, a procedure to determine the cause of death of an animal, Sunday morning and results revealed that Akilah died from a collapse of the cardiovascular system.

“Giraffes are fragile and sensitive animals, said Dr Mark Campbell, Director of Animal Health at the Cincinnati Zoo. “ Akilah experienced a tremendous amount of shock which led to a collapse of the cardiovascular system.”

Zoo keepers found Akilah around 4:30 p.m. Saturday evening sitting in the back of the outdoor exhibit.  Akilah was apparently feeding on grass inside an enclosed island within the 27,000-square-foot exhibit when her horns, called ossicones, became caught in the netting that surrounded the trees.  Zoo staff conducted a safety inspection Sunday morning in the outdoor yard and removed the netting.

Akilah was born December 25, 2006 at the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio. She stood 12-feet-tall and weighed 1,600 pounds. She arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in June 2008 for the opening of the Zoo’s Giraffe Ridge exhibit.

“Akilah will surely be missed by staff and Zoo visitors alike,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director at the Cincinnati Zoo.   There is an old truism that you wouldn’t work at a zoo if you didn’t really love animals. The whole thing wouldn’t make sense otherwise.  And this is what makes the loss of an animal tough, and doubly so when it is a young animal.”

Four-year-old female, “Tessa” and three-year-old male, “Kimbaumbau”, are the Zoo’s remaining breeding pair.  The Zoo will consult with the Massai Giraffe Population Management Plan program, managed through the American Zoo Association (AZA), to determine if another giraffe should be moved here for genetic or socialization purposes.