An 8-year-old male giraffe was killed Monday afternoon after he got caught in a metal railing, leading Zoo Atlanta officials to review the enclosure.
Zuberi was in the zoo’s behind-the-scenes giraffe complex when part of his neck became wedged in a very small space about seven-feet high. Teams responded immediately, but the reticulated giraffe died shortly after.
Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg, vice president of collections and conservation, said it’s hard to describe how he managed to get into the deadly position. She called it an “extraordinarily unusual situation.”
“Unfortunately, we may never know (what happened),” Mickelberg said. “It’s not like a railing where a child could put their head through. It surprised us all.”
It is not the first time a giraffe has died unexpectedly at Zoo Atlanta. In 2013, a 7-year-old female named Mona was in an outdoor holding area, off exhibit, when she collapsed. She died from internal bleeding, hemorrhaging that would be consistent with a fall.
The other members of Zuberi’s herd — males Abu, 12, Etana, 6 and Isooba, 6 — do not have access to the enclosure at this time, zoo officials said.
The giraffes haven’t been visible to patrons this year due to construction that’s underway for Grand New View, a major project that’s turning the old Cyclorama building into an event space that overlooks an African savanna exhibit. No guests witnessed the accident.
The official cause of Zuberi’s death won’t be known until a necropsy, the animal equivalent of an autopsy, is conducted. Mickelberg said he will be cremated.
Dr. Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services at the zoo, said in a statement that the Zoo Atlanta family is “deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic and unexpected loss.” Zuberi was born in February 2010, at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina and arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 2014.
In recent years, Zoo Miami, Dallas Zoo and Fresno Chaffee Zoo have reported giraffes dying due to problems with their enclosures, the DoDo reported in January 2016.