News10NBC Investigates: Investigation into death of giraffe at Seneca Park Zoo continues

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. After the tragic death of a 6-year-old Masai Giraffe at the Seneca Park Zoo, many of you are wondering what is being done to protect the rest of the herd. 

It’s one of many questions News10NBC has received since the community learned of the death of Parker, the giraffe who got his neck stuck in an enclosure over the weekend. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke has been investigating the care and conditions at the Seneca Park Zoo for more than a year now after a lion escaped in late 2021. 

 Since that time, Monroe County has replaced the Zoo director and veterinarian. It has also invested in updating certain enclosures and equipment. But following Parker’s death, the USDA and AZA will likely take another look. 

There’s no doubt the people who worked with Parker and the other giraffes are devastated.

“The staff here at the zoo is second to none and I am very proud of each one of them,” director Steve Lacy says. 

Parker got his head stuck in a gate enclosure and when he tried to get it out, his neck broke. 

Jennifer Lewke: “I assume the other giraffes have similar stalls. Is it the size and shape of him in particular that you’re looking at or are you worried about the other stalls that have the same enclosures?” 

Steve Lacy: “We’re going to go back and look at all of the stalls with a fresh set of eyes after this occurrence. However Parker was about three feet taller than the rest of the animals that we have here and that height is what led him to access this hazardous situation.”

Jennifer Lewke: “Was he too tall for that stall?”

Steve Lacy: “The possibility of this kind of event happening was unforeseen and unprecedented. The gate structure was installed in 2018 and is a standard giraffe enclosure feature and is used in a number of accredited zoos around the country. These gates are used for the tallest of giraffes. Parker should have even had room to grow in there.”

Jennifer Lewke: “How long was Parker stuck and how often are the enclosures monitored?”

Steve Lacy: “We watched the cameras and it looks like he got his neck stuck and within 30 seconds he broke it while trying to get it out. It does not appear he suffered. In a situation like this, we did have the ability to monitor the animals (on camera) as we typically do on many of our species, but it’s not something that we had staffed at the early hour mornings.”

As News10NBC has reported, the Seneca Park Zoo has had a number of issues over the last few years, including the brief escape of a lion in 2021. Inspectors ultimately found a number of human errors led to the escape. 

According to a 2022 AZA report, the zoo was found to have “additional weakness in facilities maintenance, safety protocols and emergency training further exacerbate the problems and have led to current conditions where Seneca Park Zoo is susceptible to major safety and animal welfare lapses.”

Jennifer Lewke: “We know the AZA had a review of the lion situation. Are you worried that another similar review may start to have them give you a second look?”

Steve Lacy: “We want to make sure that we have the best possible conditions for the animals. So if they come, we welcome another set of eyes … to answer your question. No, I don’t feel like this time we have any concerns.”

The Seneca Park Zoo had its annual inspection by the USDA in September 2022 and was not cited for any major violations.

A spokesman for the AZA tells News10NBC that it will send a letter to the zoo asking for a report on Parker’s death and after reviewing the report, the commission will decide if they need to do any in-person follow-up. The zoo has 30 days to submit its report.