Seneca Park Zoo baby giraffe has died

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Seneca Park Zoo said they had to put down the baby giraffe born July 12. The masai giraffe was born with an abnormality in one of his joints that didn’t improve despite care from veterinary staff.

The zoo released a statement on Friday that said euthanizing the giraffe calf was a difficult but compassionate decision. Veterinarian Dr. Chris McKinney said the giraffe’s health was showing signs of getting worse, including lack of nursing from his mother and lethargy.

The abnormality caused the joint to bend outward and forward. “While some fetlock issues can heal, the calf’s limb abnormality was especially pronounced,” McKinney said.

McKinney said giraffes have an unequal amount of weight on their front legs, which makes it difficult to recover from joint issues. The day that the giraffe was born, zoo staff placed him in a leg split to help with walking.

Before euthanizing the giraffe, the zoo veterinary staff consulted with experts at the Columbus, San Diego, and Bronx zoos and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We attempted multiple therapies and explored all options, but the joint continued to be too weak to stand up to the normal stress of movement,” McKinney said.

The zoo had not yet named the giraffe calf. The calf was also born with an umbilical hernia, which happens when the body’s muscles don’t close fully where the umbilical cord enters the body. McKinney said that condition didn’t harm the newborn, but it could’ve led to medical issues in the future without surgery.

Zoo Director Steve Lacy said the staff is heartbroken. On Wednesday, the zoo announced that a snowy white owl that hatched this summer has died.

The other giraffe calf born this year, Olmy, continues to thrive. Olmy, named after park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, was born in April.

The Zoo’s Animals of the Savanna building may remain closed at least through this weekend so that animal care teams can monitor stress levels in the giraffe herd.

Masai giraffes are an endangered species under the international IUCN "Red List". Poaching, habitat loss, and human encroachment have caused their populations to decline in the wild.