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July 01, 2017

Report: Lehigh Valley Zoo giraffe died after suffering broken neck

A 6-year-old giraffe that died over Memorial Day weekend at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, just days after arriving there, suffered from a broken neck after being struck by its father, officials said.

The Masai giraffe, named Ernie, had leaned into an adjoining stall when it suffered the overnight blow, leaving the animal with its neck between the bars of a human catwalk on a wall separating the stalls for what could have been hours, according to the Allentown Morning Call. It was too late to save the giraffe when zoo officials discovered it the next morning and brought in a veterinarian, according to the report.

Ernie had been removed from his 16-year-old father, Murphy, after showing aggressive behavior on May 27, a day after he arrived from the Kansas City Zoo.

The zoo believes that after the giraffe apparently put his head through the rails of the catwalk early in the morning on May 28, Murphy hit Ernie from the adjoining the stall, fracturing the young giraffe's vertebrae and rendering it unable to pull his head from the railing, according to the report.

Zoo officials believe the fracture triggered capture myopathy, a chain reaction in distressed animals that causes muscle damage from extreme stress and exertion when they're trapped or immobilized.

The giraffe died around 1 p.m. that day.

The facility's president and CEO, Melissa Borland, said she has been warning other zoos with similar catwalk setups.

"We want to make sure, across the board, that this never happens again," she said.