UPDATE: Niabi Zoo Giraffe Calf Died Of Likely Lung Disorder - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

UPDATE: Niabi Zoo Giraffe Calf Died Of Likely Lung Disorder

Updated: Aug 20, 2013 02:53 PM


Pathologists at the University of Illinois have concluded that the giraffe calf at the Niabi Zoo died of a lung disorder on August 13.

After extensive study of internal organs, tissue samples, fluid samples and bacterial cultures, pathologists have concluded that the cause of death was likely a lung disorder similar to Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (NRDS) in humans. NRDS in humans is mainly caused by a lack of surfactant, a slippery, protective substance which helps the lungs inflate with air and prevents them from collapsing after exhalation.

While pathologists are unable to say with absolute certainty that NRDS was the cause, all test and exams pointed to that conclusion.

"We're sad to have lost her," said Zoo Director Marc Heinzman. "But the entire zoo staff welcomes the feeling of closure that comes with learning why she is gone."


The Niabi Zoo staff is mourning the loss of a female giraffe calf born on August 13. The calf survived for about 3 hours before a rapid decline in health.

The calf was sent to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine for a full animal autopsy. Results of that autopsy are expected next week.

"This was a terrible loss that was felt by everyone at the zoo, particularly the giraffe care staff. Our experience animal care and veterinary staff made every attempt to resuscitate the calf, but ultimately we were unable to help her pull through," said Marc Heinzman, Niabi Zoo Director in a release.

The calf was born to Mimi, an experienced mother who has had two healthy and successful calves in past years. The calf weight 124 pounds at birth and showed no outward signs of trouble during her original exam. Two and a half hours after birth, the calf experienced breathing trouble, according to the zoo.

"As with any newborn at the Zoo, we were keeping continuous observations on this calf. She had been exhibiting normal behaviors for newborn giraffes, including several attempts to stand for the first time," said Heinzman. "We are continuing to keep a close eye on Mimi to make sure she continues to do well."

According to the Zoo, fifty percent of newborn calves in the wild do not survive past 6 months of age.


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