A month-old giraffe at a zoo in Fresno, California, collapsed and died Sunday night in front of VIP donors who had gathered for a special exhibit preview event.
The male giraffe, which was 188 pounds and just over 6 feet tall when born Sept. 9, died at about 5 p.m. Sunday after entering the Chaffee Zoo's new "African Adventure" exhibit. In a message posted on Facebook, zoo officials said a necropsy would be performed to determine the exact cause of death, although it appeared to be the result of "an accident on exhibit."
Despite reports that the giraffe ran into a wall before collapsing, zoo officials told the Fresno Bee that he was not entangled in fencing.
Scott Barton, the zoo's chief executive, told the local ABC affiliate that little change has occurred in the aging exhibit, "and so for this to become an issue was really a surprise, but it is one we are dealing with."
VIP donors and other guests who had assembled to preview the new exhibit, meanwhile, were left "really upset," as was the staff, zoo spokeswoman Alisha Anderson told the Bee. The crowd for the event was estimated at more than 300.
“Anytime this happens, it’s awful, but especially at such a happy time, that makes it so much worse,” Anderson said.
PETA criticized the death on its blog as just the latest example of why giraffes should not be confined to zoo enclosures, where they are at risk of developing stress-induced maladies that can lead to a premature death.
The post read: "Giraffes belong in the wild, not in enclosures, which present many opportunities for these timid animals to become injured and include conditions that are inherently stressful to them."
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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