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Santa Barbara Zoo giraffe dies after surgery

Giraffe dies
Daniel, a 19-month-old Masai giraffe, has died following a dental procedure similar to a root canal, Santa Barbara Zoo officials said Tuesday.

Eight veterinarians and three veterinary technicians performed the surgery, which seemed to be going well until Daniel started to come out of the anesthesia.

He collapsed after wobbling to his feet and went into "respiratory failure" after Monday's procedure, said zoo director Nancy McToldridge. Veterinarians injected emergency drugs and, one, kneeling on Daniel's chest, performed CPR compressions with his knees. Those efforts to revive him failed.

"They're the same team that successfully did dental procedures on our Asian elephant, Little Mac, this summer," McToldridge said. "They're the best in the world." 

Zoo officials were awaiting results of a necropsy to learn more about what caused Daniel's death.

Anesthesia is a particular risk in giraffes because of their unique physiology, McToldridge said. The risk nonetheless appeared worth taking because the abcess and infection in Daniel's lower left jaw would have spread through his bones "and would have led to euthanasia probably sooner rather than later," McToldridge said. 

The infection was first seen two months ago and did not respond to antibiotics.

Daniel was born in Santa Barbara on Jan. 9, 2011. His mother, Audrey, arrived from the Los Angeles Zoo eight months before and, to the surprise of zookeepers, turned out to be pregnant. Not even three years old, she refused to nurse her calf, who was hand-nursed by the zoo's staff.

The zoo's most famous giraffe was Gemina, who died at 21 in 2008. Gemina was born without any deformities but her neck soon took on a pronounced zigzag - a curve so unusual that scientists had not seen anything like it since 1902. She died of old age.

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-- Steve Chawkins

Photo: Daniel, a Masai giraffe, died after undergoing surgery. Credit: Sheri Horiszny/Santa Barbara Zoo

 
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