Zoo officials say giraffe’s death may be linked to fall

The giraffe that died at Zoo Atlanta this week appears to have suffered injuries in a fall, according to zoo officials.

Mona, a 7-year-old adult female, was in an outdoor holding area, but off exhibit, when she collapsed Wednesday, said Hayley Murphy, director of veterinary services.

The “gross necropsy” was completed Thursday and indicated that the giraffe died from internal bleeding — hemorrhaging that would be consistent with a fall, Murphy said.

“It is speculation that she fell,” Murphy said Friday. “Nobody saw it happen.”

Zoo personnel have observed no other indications of health problems, she said. “She was in excellent health.”

Staff at the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service will conduct tests at the cellular level to rule out any other causes, such as disease or unknown parasites. Those tests should be complete within eight weeks.

Murphy said that giraffes frequently are injured in falls. “Trauma is the No. 1 cause of death of giraffes in captivity,” she said. “They are very tall, gawky animals. In the wild, a lot of them die from trauma, too.”

Mona was 14 feet tall and weighed 1,800 pounds. She arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 2007, along with Glenda, a 6-year-old adult female. Mona gave birth to Lily in July 2011. The giraffe collection at Zoo Atlanta includes Glenda, Lily and the adult male Abu.

Murphy said the paddock where Mona collapsed is attached to the barn, where the giraffes can take shelter from the weather, and where they stay at night. The giraffes were off exhibit over the New Year’s holiday, due to rain and cold weather. “We routinely don’t put them out if conditions are not great,” said Murphy. “They are fairly intolerant of rain and cold.”

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