18-Day-Old Baby Giraffe Dies at Columbus Zoo

The cause of Ubumwe's shocking death is unknown at this time

Giraffe Calf (Ubumwe)
Photo: Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Just 18 days after celebrating the birth of Masai giraffe calf Ubumwe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced the baby’s death.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we announce that Ubumwe, the female Masai giraffe calf born on Oct. 30, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 17 at approximately 8:30 a.m. At this time, the cause is unknown, and we will not have more information until a necropsy (animal autopsy) is conducted and a pathology report is received in several weeks,” the zoo shared in a statement given to PEOPLE.

According to the zoo, both Ubumwe and her mother Zuri had been closely monitored since the female calf’s birth. On Friday the animal care staff looking after the pair noticed that the calf had stopped nursing and seemed less energetic. A check-up revealed that Ubumwe was constipated, so she was given medicine and fluids to help treat her gastrointestinal distress. After treatment, the young giraffe appeared to have returned to her normal, healthy self.

Unfortunately, Ubumwe’s energy began to wane again in the evening, so she was giving a follow-up exam. The ultrasound given during the exam uncovered an “abnormality of the bowel.”

“She was then anesthetized and taken to the Zoo’s Animal Health Center for a CT scan, which was done with the assistance of an equine veterinary specialist and radiologist from The Ohio State University. The CT scan did not show a blockage or other reason for her discomfort that would warrant surgery,” zoo staff said of what happened next. “She continued to receive intensive care from the Zoo’s animal care professionals and remained in another behind-the-scenes area, where she appeared stable and comfortable overnight.”

Giraffe Calf (Ubumwe)
Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Saturday did not bring easier times for Ubumwe. In the morning, the calf’s health deteriorated so quickly that she died before any serious medical intervention could occur. This sudden death has been difficult for those who cared for the calf since birth, but they aren’t letting this shocking loss prevent them from providing the best care for the surviving giraffes and the future giraffes to come.

“The Zoo’s devoted animal care team is devastated but remain committed to providing care to the other members of the giraffe herd, including Zuri who has moved back with them, as well as Cami, who is also expecting a calf soon,” the statement concluded.

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