Giraffe calf dies during birth at Columbus Zoo

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A giraffe calf died during birth Tuesday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, despite the efforts of surgeons and staff.

Cami, a 6-year-old female Masai giraffe, had gone into labor at the zoo around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

As Cami’s labor progressed, it became evident that the calf was presenting rear hooves first. Giraffe calves typically are born front hooves first and it is rare for calves to survive after being born rear hooves first, according to a press release from the Columbus Zoo.

In an effort to do everything possible to save the mother and baby, the Columbus Zoo animal care team decided to enter the stall and turn off National Geographic livestream cameras at 4:50 p.m.

Around 8 p.m. surgeons performed a Caesarean section maneuver to extract the calf from Cami. But the calf had serious congenital defects and was badly deformed and would not have survived even it had been born front hooves first, said Patty Peters, vice president of community relations.

Caesarean sections are rare with giraffes and are typically conducted as a last resort due to the risks of putting them under anesthesia.

While mom giraffe Cami’s condition is stable, her prognosis remains guarded, according to the zoo.

Cami arrived in 2013 at the Columbus Zoo from the Nashville Zoo as part of a program intended to breed more giraffes.

The death is now the third baby giraffe to die at Columbus Zoo-operated facilities since September. Another giraffe calf, Ubumwe, a female, died Nov. 17 at the zoo. That calf was born on Oct. 30 – the first born at the zoo since 1999.

In September, a 2-month-old baby giraffe died at The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center in eastern Ohio that the Columbus Zoo operates.

Baby giraffes have a high mortality rate, with an estimated 25 percent dying in captivity and 50 percent perishing in the wild, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The Columbus Zoo had previously birthed 19 giraffes over its history before the arrival of Cami’s and Zuri’s late calves.

“The loss of any animal is heartbreaking to the Columbus Zoo’s devoted animal care and animal health teams, particularly two (at the zoo) whose births were as anticipated as these giraffe calves,” Tom Stalf, zoo president and CEO, said in a news release. “Despite the sad outcome, I am proud of our caring professionals for the great measures they took to try to save both Ubumwe, as well as Cami’s calf.”

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