BREC’S Baton Rouge Zoo Mourns Loss of Two Giraffes

March 20 2016

BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the deaths of two of its adult female giraffes. Both giraffes, ages 24 and 30, died at the Zoo early Saturday morning. The Zoo’s 24-year-old giraffe, Hope, has being treated for a recurring front leg problem for the past eight years.

On Tuesday evening she began to limp on a rear leg. Additional medical attention was given and it appeared she was improving with treatment. However, on Friday morning, she was unable to stand and the decision was made to keep her in the barn that day under closer observation. Throughout the day, keepers, curators and veterinarians worked to move her into a more comfortable position where she might also be able to improve her strength.

Friday evening, with the severe weather approaching Baton Rouge, the hoofstock curator and giraffe keeper were attempting to move the other giraffes into the barn for the night. In order to keep Hope isolated in her own stall as she continued to fight her illness, they had to move the Zoo’s 30 year old adult female giraffe, Mopani, into a stall with the male giraffe, Roan. When the female entered the stall, the male immediately became aggressive and knocked Mopani down. The giraffes had previously shared a stall with no conflict, as recently as earlier that morning.

At 2 a.m., Mopani died from injuries sustained from the scuffle, despite efforts by staff. Later this morning, the decision was made by the Zoo Veterinarians to euthanize Hope, whose condition had taken a turn for the worse.

“This is an extremely sad event for all of us,” said Dr. Gordon Pirie, Zoo Veterinarian. "The death of any animal is always difficult, but to lose two in one day is just devastating. I am very proud of the staff for their dedication to the care of Hope and Mopani. Curators and veterinary staff were here all night caring for them and we did everything we could."

Zoo Director Phil Frost has asked the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) to perform an audit on this incident. This will involve an independent team visiting the Zoo to review of all activities that occurred leading up to the deaths of the giraffes. “While I am confident our staff did everything they could to professionally care for our aging giraffes, Hope and Mopani, if the audit can help us learn anything from this most unfortunate incident, at least something good might result.”

The average lifespan for giraffes is 19.5 years. A necropsy was performed by Dr. Fabio Del Piero, Pathologist with LSU School of Veterinary Medicine on both giraffes with results pending.