Hearts are heavy at the Tulsa Zoo as staff mourns the death of a baby giraffe. Lexi, a 7-year-old Rothschild giraffe, gave birth to a full-term, 155-pound male calf on exhibit at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2014. The calf was alive at birth, but made no attempt to stand. When the calf did not appear to be breathing or moving for several minutes, the animal care staff was able to quickly coax Lexi away from the calf and into the barn to allow the veterinary and animal care staff to evaluate the calf. When staff confirmed the calf was not breathing, a tube was placed in his airway so staff could provide air to his lungs and attempt CPR. The calf did not respond to resuscitation attempts.
“Our zoo family is devastated by the loss of Lexi’s calf,” said Joe Barkowski, Vice President of Animal Conservation & Science. “We are very proud of our veterinary and animal care staff for their tireless efforts throughout Lexi’s pregnancy. We are saddened that there was no way we could have saved this calf.”
Through a postmortem exam performed on the calf, a severe congenital heart defect was found to be the cause of death. The left and right ventricular chambers of the heart were both malformed with severe outflow tract abnormalities, which would have caused the calf to not be able to adequately circulate or oxygenate his blood normally. He could live in the womb because the placenta was able to do this job adequately for him.
Heart defects are uncommon in most animals and vary from mild to extreme to fatal abnormalities. The severity of the heart abnormality was such that the calf had no chance of survival outside of the womb, and no pre- or post-natal intervention would be effective in changing the outcome.
The mother, Lexi, appears to be very tired, but is otherwise normal, and will be closely monitored for the next few days.
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