Woody, the 9-year-old male giraffe who died early Tuesday at Hogle Zoo, died of "terminal aspiration," a zoo official reported.
The medical term means that the animal, under stress from a fall Monday morning that damaged delicate tendons and ligaments in his rear legs, threw up. Regurgitated material went into the animal's wind pipe and collected in his lungs.Zoo spokesman Andrew Wallace said U.S. Department of Agriculture officials were notified Monday after the animal fell. USDA veterinarian Dr. Bob Gibbens, animal care veterinary medical officer who has made many visits and inspections at the zoo, was present when a necropsy (same as an autopsy) was performed.
The Deseret News could not reach Gibbens, USDA veterinary medical officer for Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, for comment. Dr. Homer Malaby, a veterinarian and supervisory animal care specialist in the USDA region office in Sacramento, Calif., said Tuesday he does not know if conditions surrounding Woody's death would become a part of the USDA investigation.
Wallace said Woody was alone in his pen when he fell, causing his legs to spread apart. The injuries prevented him from standing. The spokesman said the "pen was dry and clean but that (Woody) may have stepped and slipped on his own excrement, but we are not sure."
Using hoists, blocking panels and hay bales, some 30 zoo staffers worked unsuccessfully throughout the day Monday to lift the giraffe to his feet. The giraffe was given pain relievers throughout the day to reduce suffering, Wallace said.
Dr. Ross Anderson, zoo veterinarian, and zoo keepers monitored the animal's condition during the evening and provided pain relievers and hay bales in his exhibit to prevent any further injuries and allow him to rest before making additional plans to get Woody to his feet again Tuesday morning.
Woody was born at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in 1985 and was transferred to Hogle Zoo in 1987.
Wallace said three female giraffes, two of which are pregnant, remain at Hogle Zoo.
"It is too early to tell whether (the zoo) will replace" Woody with another giraffe, Wallace said.Comment on this story
Meanwhile, Wallace and Kimberly Davidson, the zoo's general curator, said Wednesday the zoo has received many calls from angry as well as supportive residents about Woody's death.
Some callers were very rude or used profane language, Wallace and Davidson said.
She said she called 10 zoos around the country Tuesday and was able to get through to five.
"I didn't find a zoo that hasn't lost a giraffe from falling," Davidson said.