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Young Giraffe At Tulsa Zoo Dies

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TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Zoo announced Friday morning the five-year-old female giraffe Amali died during a procedure to determine the extent of her recent neck injury. 

In a news release, the Tulsa Zoo says it is awaiting results from the initial necropsy to determine the cause of her death.  

Amali suffered a neck injury during transport from her home zoo in Ohio on October 18th.

12/2/2009 Related story: Tulsa Zoo Says X-Ray Next Step For Injured Giraffe

Her injury was immediately noted by Tulsa Zoo staff as she exited the specialized trailer she arrived in.

Initially she was treated for a possible soft tissue injury but the condition of her neck worsened.    

"It became evident in the last few weeks the misalignment of her neck was becoming more severe; but without X-rays we could not determine the exact nature of the neck injury we were trying to treat, or if any treatment would be helpful," said Dr. Kay Backues, Tulsa Zoo Veterinarian. 

"This procedure involved risk. Our responsibility was to exhaust treatment options, and without X-rays, we couldn't diagnose the injury or prognosis for Amali's life."

Read The Zoo's Incident Report On Amali's Death

A team of veterinary specialists from Oklahoma State Veterinary Health Sciences were gathered Thursday, December 3, to assist in the efforts, including an equine surgeon, a radiologist and other veterinarians who work in exotic animal care to help get the X-ray films and review the findings.   

The Tulsa Zoo says Amali entered the restraint chute smoothly and her vital signs remained stable during sedation and while X-rays were taken.  When the procedure ended, her condition deteriorated and she died despite emergency treatment efforts. 

Amali's death is third death of an animal at the Tulsa Zoo this year.   Yukon the brown bear died in February and Kavek the polar bear died in May.

Related stories:
2/19/2009 Tulsa Zoo's Brown Bear Dies

5/15/2009 Tulsa Zoo's Polar Bear Dies 

The X-rays obtained by the medical crew confirmed the seriousness of the injury. 

"Amali had actually broken the growth plate on the front or cranial end of her fourth cervical vertebrae. Her powerful neck ligaments had been slowly pulling the unstable fracture out of alignment to a point that her C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae were at a 90 degree angle to each other. The fact that Amali showed no signs of neurologic impairment and could walk, eat, and move normally despite this abnormal alignment is truly amazing," said Dr. Backues.   

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into what happened during the trip to see if the shipping company might have contributed to the injury.

The City of Tulsa paid $25,000 for the giraffe, and donors paid $6,000 to have the animal shipped to Tulsa. The zoo planned to use Amali for breeding purposes; now that plan has been delayed by at least a year.

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