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Jul 20, 2011 6:46 PM

Giraffe is 5th Reid Park Zoo animal to die in a year

TUCSON - The death of a male giraffe at Reid Park Zoo marks the fifth animal to die at the Tucson zoo in the past 12 months.

In December, Boris, an 11-year-old polar bear died after a routine medical procedure. Last October, Kitabu, an 18-year-old African lion, died months after suffering a stroke. Last August, a zebra named Abbey was euthanized due to health issues, and last July, Zibulo, the zoo's 37-year-old male white rhino died from age-related issues.

It is believed that Watato and another giraffe unintentionally ingested oleander, a toxic vegetation, through a "series of unfortunate events."

Watoto began showing signs of an illness early Tuesday. He was refusing food and water, choosing to lie down, and generally displaying lethargy, although he remained responsive. His keeper remained by his side all day, keeping him under close observation.

By late afternoon, it was clear that he was not improving.

All veterinary reports and advice suggested the situation was grim, and that recovery was not likely. The husbandry team, including Zoo staff and outside zoological experts, stepped in to attempt supportive fluid therapy and the administration of medication to combat the toxicity of the vegetation. The team worked diligently doing everything humanly possible to save the animal however during the initial stage of treatment, the giraffe's heart stopped. After all emergency response options were exhausted he passed away.

The other giraffe that was potentially exposed to toxic vegetation has not shown any signs of illness at this time, zoo officials say, but remains under close observation and veterinary care.

Susan Basford, the Zoo's Administrator says, "Through the regrettable events that occurred, I also witnessed our staff at its best - professionals who care deeply about our animals, and who worked diligently as a team doing everything humanly possible to save an animal in our care."

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