August 17, 2008

Male Giraffe Dies at N.C. Zoo

ASHEBORO -- A 14-year-old male giraffe died at the North Carolina Zoo on Thursday afternoon while undergoing surgery to remove a stone blocking his urinary tract.

Azog was born at the N.C. Zoo in July 1994. He was one of two adult giraffes in the zoo's collection.

Keepers noticed he was having urinary problems Thursday morning and called in zoo veterinarians, who diagnosed the problem.

The zoo's chief veterinarian, Mike Loomis, said the blockage would have eventually caused the giraffe's death. As a result, the decision was made to immediately remove the stone surgically.

The procedure began about noon, but after more than two hours of surgery, veterinarians were unable to reach the blockage. Azog died under anesthesia about 2:30 p.m. in the giraffe holding barn, where the procedure was conducted.

Loomis said he had anesthetized more than a dozen giraffes over the years and this has been the first to die under anesthesia.

"But we knew there were risks because this is a species that is extremely susceptible to problems under anesthesia," Loomis said. "It was a calculated risk that we had to take."

Male giraffes are particularly susceptible to urinary tract blockage caused by stones, Loomis added.

A necropsy to confirm the cause of death was being conducted at the zoo's Schindler Veterinary Center late Thursday. Final results may not be available for several days.

Meanwhile, the zoo's other adult giraffe, 32-year-old Julie, remains in good health and on exhibit. Julie is still one of the five oldest giraffes exhibited in American zoos.

Two other giraffes, both 10 months old, will be arriving at the zoo from the Denver and Cheyenne Mountain zoos Sept. 6 through an agreement set up earlier this year.

The young giraffes will not be available for public view until after they go through a mandatory 30-day quarantine period.

(c) 2008 Greensboro News Record. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.