Ernie the six-year-old Masai giraffe has died due to a neck injury sustained at Lehigh Valley Zoo in Pennsylvania.
According to the Associated Press, the young giraffe acquired the injury while displaying unusual and aggressive behavior.
Ernie had been at the zoo less than a week before his unexpected passing. The giraffe was brought to the park with his father, 16-year-old Murphy, from the Kansas City Zoo in Missouri. Father and son were moved as part of Lehigh Valley Zoo’s African animal exhibit expansion plan.
Ernie arrived at his new home in a specially-made trailer on Friday, enduring an 18-hour road trip to get there. Upon his arrival, the young giraffe was placed near Murphy. At first, the pair showed affection for one another, but then Ernie started to act violently and was moved to a separate area.
This aggressive and uncharacteristic behavior continued into Saturday, where, at some point, Ernie critically injured himself while in his stall. Zoo officials reached out to giraffe specialists for help, but it was too late. Ernie died Sunday afternoon.
“We are having the most difficult time finding the words to convey how heartbroken we are, and we hope you will join us as we mourn the loss of Ernie,” zoo president and CEO Melissa Borland said in a statement Sunday.
As zoo officials try to understand this loss, they will be working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to investigate what caused Ernie’s death.
Unfortunately, this is not the year’s first surprising zoo giraffe death. In March, a giraffe at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro became tangled in an enrichment toy and died.