The North Carolina Zoo has launched an investigation into the “toy” that killed a beloved giraffe on Tuesday, but they have bigger, more pressing issue to deal with in the mean time.
What do you do with a 3,000-plus pound dead giraffe, an animal that stood taller than the average garage?
It’s a morbid question, sad even, given how much zoo visitors had come to love the easy going 9-year-old giraffe named Jamili. She’d been part of the zoo since 2009, a lifetime for the thousands of children that visit the zoo each day.
But we had to ask: Is there an elephant’s graveyard, so to speak, at the zoo?
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The short answer is “no.”
Zoo officials were admittedly uncomfortable with the question, but they say protocols exist for such big bodies. In the case of Jamili, it starts with an autopsy by zoo pathologists to determine exactly what caused her death. Jamili was found dead Tuesday after she apparently got a barrel stuck on the small hornlike protuberances giraffes have on their heads. Keepers believe she thrashed about trying to get free, causing fatal injuries.
The barrel was a so called “enrichment item,” used by the zoo as toys and puzzles, to keep the animals challenged and active. Zoo keepers typically modify such items, to make sure they are safe and free of sharp edges or other things that might cause harm.
But something went wrong in Jamili’s case, which is another reason why the autopsy is needed.
“We look for obvious signs, but also collect tissue samples that are sent off to various labs for diagnosis,” said Guy Lichty, a mammal curator at the zoo.
“Our veterinarians learn a lot from this process and information gained helps improve veterinary and husbandry practices so that we can constantly improve our care and share what we learn with others. Many times, research scientists request specimens for their research. If we have a request on file when an animal dies, and we approve of the research, we may provide samples.”
Ultimately, Jamili will be cremated in a large zoo incinerator, he says.
“However, throughout this whole process, the animal is always treated with respect and dignity,” Lichty said.
It wasn’t immediately known when Jamili’s funeral will be held.