Dallas Zoo Mourns Third Giraffe Death in a Month After Losing 14-Year-Old Animal

Jesse the 14-year-old giraffe died on Oct. 29 at the Dallas Zoo, less than a week after 19-year-old Auggie passed away, which has the facility concerned a shared health issue could link the deaths

Jesse the giraffe
Photo: Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo is in mourning again.

On Monday, the Texas facility announced on Facebook that its 14-year-old giraffe Jesse died on Oct. 29. Jesse is the third giraffe to die at the zoo in one month.

"You may have seen the news recently, regarding another tragedy in our giraffe herd. Unfortunately, 14-year-old Jesse passed away on Oct. 29, despite aggressive treatment and heroic efforts by animal care staff. He began showing first signs of illness on Oct. 27 and received intense medical care and observation until his ultimate passing," the zoo shared in the post, which also included a photo of Jesse.

Just last week, the zoo shared the sad news that its 19-year-old giraffe Auggie died after battling "age-related health issues that led to liver failure."

"Affectionately known as 'Uncle Auggie' because of how sweet and gentle he always was with new calves, he will be missed by all of us. Death is an inevitable part of zoo life, but we believe sharing these stories — both the good and the sad — helps you stay connected to the animals you know and love," the Dallas Zoo wrote in their Facebook tribute to the animal.

Now, keepers are concerned that Auggie and Jesse's death could be linked due to Jesse's blood test results, "which showed abnormal liver enzymes."

"Currently, while we suspect the two deaths may be connected, we are still working towards definitive proof. We are doing extensive lab testing on blood and tissue samples from Jesse and Auggie to identify commonalities and further pinpoint what may have happened. The necropsy results from both giraffes pointed to liver damage, which is leading us to focus on the possibility that they were exposed to a toxin of some sort, either through a food source, in the exhibit space, or introduced via a foreign object," the zoo shared online, adding that experts are also testing for Zoonotic diseases.

The Dallas Zoo's first giraffe death of October, the loss of a 3-month-old calf named Marekani, has no links to Jesse and Auggie's passing. The zoo humanely euthanized Marekani after the giraffe calf sustained a "catastrophic" injury.

"Our findings show that Marekani and a few of the adult giraffes were running along an inclined section of the habitat when one of her front legs planted in the ground at the top of the incline, causing her leg to hyperextend. We believe one of the adult giraffes was then unable to stop fast enough, colliding with Marekani from behind — the impact of which caused fractures to her radius and ulna," the zoo shared of what its internal review of the baby giraffe's fatal injury revealed.

In response to their findings, the Dallas Zoo will add "substrate material in areas that showed some erosion, and we also will be installing cameras around the habitat."

Dallas Zoo giraffe deaths
Dallas Zoo (2)

As for Jesse and Auggie, the zoo is intensely working to "find a possible link between these two deaths and determine what may have led to this."

"The lab results we depend on for diagnosis and confirmation simply cannot come fast enough — for us, and for you. We know it's difficult to hear about these losses. We hope explanations and openness like this help you trust that no one cares more for these animals or grieves more over the losses than the animal care and veterinary teams here at the Zoo," the Dallas Zoo shared in Jesse's death announcement.

The facility added that they have also put "preventative measures" in place across their animal care teams to protect its giraffe heard and other animal residents. These measures include "limiting giraffe movements and access to the habitat and feed yard," discarding food supplies and replacing them with fresh crops, "closely monitoring giraffe and similar hoofstock for any signs of illness," and "conducting regular blood draws to monitor liver enzyme levels."

The Dallas Zoo wrote that it plans to keep animal lovers updated on their efforts to learn more about Auggie and Jesse's deaths and the status of the rest of their giraffe herd through social media.

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