Tulsa Zoo Faces Fine, Violations Over Death Of Giraffe

Thursday, June 3rd 2010, 2:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Zoo is to blame for a giraffe's death from hypothermia. A federal investigation reports Tulsa Zoo officials didn't act fast enough to warm the nine-year-old giraffe.

Federal agricultural officials cited the Tulsa Zoo for three violations and fined them $5,000.

Read The USDA report. 

Samburu is the only giraffe at the Tulsa Zoo.  Both of the giraffes brought in to mate with Sam have died.

Amali died after an injury to her neck. Amira couldn't survive a cold snap that pitched Tulsa into single digit temperatures in January.  Officials say they brought in heaters and extra bedding to try to save Amira, but federal investigators now say zoo keepers didn't do enough.

1/20/2010 Related story: Tulsa Zoo Confirms Cause Of Second Giraffe's Death

The USDA cites employees for "failing to follow the veterinarian's order of immediately supplying supplemental heat."

"Small heaters were immediately put into place what was at question was a larger heater," said Terrie Correll, Tulsa Zoo Director.

Zoo Director Terrie Correll says some workers were concerned the larger, louder heater would startle the animal so it wasn't used at first. But she says the larger heater was eventually placed in the barn, which was 25°cooler on the floor than the ceiling. Correll says personnel actions were taken and training was changed to address the issue.

"Well we have learned some valuable lessons here," she said. "And we have taken steps to improve our policies and procedures to insure this doesn't happen again."

The Tulsa Zoo is already finalizing plans to renovate the 25-year-old giraffe barn.

"Improved heating systems, new insulation and improved doors to seal the barn," Correll said. "And that's what we're working on now."

Correll says, despite the back to back tragedies, the zoo is still working on finding a friend for Samburu.

"We will have a facility moving forward in the future that can house and display and be a conservation breeding center for giraffes," she said. "And that will be our goal and our commitment."

Federal inspectors are also looking into the death of Amali, who arrived with a crooked neck. But that investigation has not been completed.

In a news release from the Tulsa Zoo, officials said as the zoo moves forward with barn renovations and other maintenance identified by a recent American Zoo Association report, it is also is making progress toward becoming privatized, or rather, reorganized under a new governance structure, Tulsa Zoo Management, Inc.