‘The prognosis is poor’ for Seneca Park Zoo giraffe

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Seneca Park Zoo today announced that “Kipenzi,” the zoo’s female Masai giraffe, has a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. The zoo veterinarian says her prognosis is poor, but she doesn’t appear to be uncomfortable.

Kipenzi underwent a biopsy for a growth on her jaw Aug. 15. The data was sent to the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Lab for testing; the results revealed it’s squamous cell carcinoma and invasive through the jaw bone.

“Given the location of the tumor within the bone of the jaw, there is no way to remove it without compromising Kipenzi’s ability to eat and ruminate, or chew cud,” said Seneca Park Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Chris McKinney. “The prognosis is poor. This type of tumor is rare in giraffes, but in the few cases reported, the cancer spreads into the lymph nodes. Kipenzi is currently doing very well and does not require any medication. She is showing no signs of discomfort and is eating well.”

McKinney, Animal Health teams and the giraffe keepers will continue to monitor Kipenzi closely and document any changes with the tumor or in her behavior, and keepers will monitor her appetite daily. Since the tumor as it grows can damage the roots of teeth, there will be x-rays taken once a month to evaluate for internal changes, so they’ll know to give her pain medications.

“Unfortunately, this tumor will grow to a point that it causes severe pain in her jaw and prevents her from being able to eat. If we are seeing signs that Kipenzi is in pain and medications are not helping her, then we will have to make the difficult decision for euthanasia to prevent her from suffering,” McKinney said.

“Kipenzi is a sweet-tempered, beloved member of the Seneca Park Zoo community who has inspired so many of our children and families to care more about Masai giraffes and the wonders of the natural world,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said in a statement. “Sadly, these biopsy results are not what we were hoping for, but I know the zoo’s dedicated and compassionate animal care team will continue to do all they can to ensure she remains comfortable and does not suffer. I am grateful to all Zoo staff for the exceptional care they provide Kipenzi and all the animals at our Zoo, and encourage the community to keep the Zoo care team in their thoughts as they navigate this difficult time.”