Wellington Zoo's only male giraffe will be buried at the tip after dying from anaesthetic complications.
The endangered rothschild giraffe had been suffering from laminitis in his right hoof. Six-year-old Seun was one of only 2500 rothschild giraffes in the world and had been with the zoo since 2008.
Vets and Massey University specialists decided yesterday to anaesthetise him for X-rays and blood tests.
While Seun was under anaesthetic, vets found a "severely infected" toe and decided to amputate it. The procedure had been known to be successful on large bulls.
But after five hours under anaesthetic, Seun was unable to lift himself back up because too much blood had pooled at the underside of his body.
"He was trying to get up but he was just too tired," zoo marketing and communications manager Kate Baker said. "We tried reversal drugs at about 3.45pm, but he was gone by 5pm."
General operations manager Mauritz Basson said: "An hour and a half, he would have been OK.
"He was lying on his side for five hours. All the blood would have pooled at the bottom of his body."
Baker said the zoo had not conducted X-rays and blood tests earlier because anaesthetising a giraffe was extremely dangerous.
Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said earlier in the day that Seun had been in extreme pain and could not put weight on his foot. Laminitis is a painful inflammation of the lamellar tissue in the hoof, usually found in horses and cattle.
The cost of a new giraffe for the zoo could reach $100,000.
A new male would have to be brought over from the United States, because other males in the Pacific region are too genetically close to the females already at the zoo.
Ministry for Primary Industries regulations require the giraffe to be buried deeply, meaning the landfill was the suitable location, Baker said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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