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Giraffe dies at LA Zoo after birthing complications

July 24, 2009 |  4:58 pm

Asali, a 26-year-old Masai giraffe that lived at the Los Angeles Zoo for most of her life, has died, from apparent birthing complications, zoo officials announced today.

The giraffe, who had successfully borne 12 calves since 1988, died after zoo veterinarians worked for two days to remove a stillborn calf.  Although they were able to remove the calf, the mother died afterward, officials said.

"The Los Angeles Zoo is saddened by the loss of Asali," said Zoo Director John Lewis in a prepared statement. "Over her many years here at the Zoo, Asali was viewd by millions of visitors and over two generations of school children.

"For many who will never travel to Africa, Asali served as an ambassador to her wild cousins and provided our guests with the opportunity to marvel at the beauty and massive height of this species," Lewis said.

Asali was one of the last wild-caught Masai giraffes to enter the U.S. when she arrived as a not-yet fully-grown one-year-old. Her offspring and some of their offspring have helped add to the giraffe populations at zoos around North America, officials said.

Bob Barnes, the zoo's registrar, recalled picking her up when she arrived at LAX in December 1983.

"We loaded her shipping crate onto a stake-bed truck and drove her up the Harbor Freeway to the zoo," Barnes said.  The crate didn't have a top so "a lot of the people on the Harbor Freeway were surprised to see a giraffe" riding past them, Barnes added.

The zoo has five remaining giraffes, ranging in age from four months to 23 years.

--Jean Merl