Kipenzi, the baby giraffe whose birth at the Dallas Zoo on April 10 was seen live by over two million people on Animal Planet, died Tuesday after an accident at the zoo. The three-month-old giraffe was running back and forth in the yard with her half-brother Kopano, when she hit something and broke three vertebrae on her neck, Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.
The incident happened at about 5:30 p.m. when the keepers were moving the giraffe herd to the night barn. Keepers said, according to Dallas Morning News, that there were no witnesses to the incident, which will be investigated Wednesday. The zoo announced on social media that the employees were devastated.
“Kipenzi will always remain in our hearts, and while tears are flowing freely here tonight, we are eternally grateful for the millions of smiles she gave us all,” the Dallas Zoo said on its Facebook page, adding: “Her stardom brought attention to the plight of wild giraffes in Africa, helped raise more than $35,000 for giraffe conservation and sparked conversations about her incredibly majestic species.”
Gregg Hudson, the zoo's president and CEO, said, according to Dallas Morning News: “This is a huge loss for our giraffe herd, our staff and our guests. ... To be honest, it hurts terribly. We’re crushed, and everyone here is mourning. Please keep our staff in your thoughts.”
Harrison Edell, the zoo’s senior director of living collections, told Dallas Morning News, that the zoo personnel keep the three calves in a smaller yard to reduce the risk of injury.
“We always want to do anything we can to keep our animals as safe as possible,” Edell reportedly said, adding: “But at the same time short of wrapping an animal in bubble wrap and keeping them totally isolated there are always going to be some risks in any environment.
“Young animals are lanky and gangly and uncoordinated just like young people are, so we want to make sure they can physically move around safely.”
Kipenzi’s mother, Katie, was reportedly allowed to visit her in the zoo before the young giraffe's body was taken by the veterinarians.