Dallas Zoo

Dallas Zoo's World-Famous Giraffe Kipenzi Dies

Dallas Zoo said its world-famous baby giraffe, Kipenzi, has died after running into the perimeter edge of her habitat Tuesday.

The zoo said the results of a necropsy confirmed she suffered two broken vertebrae in her neck, possibly a third, and died immediately.

In a statement released to NBC 5, zoo officials said keepers were routinely moving the giraffes into their night barn just after 5:30 p.m. when Kipenzi began to scamper in the feed yard, made a sharp turn and collided with the wall.

"Running is a typical behavior for giraffes of all ages, especially young ones like Kipenzi," Harrison Edell, the zoo's senior director of living collections, said in a statement. "We've been very cautious with where we've allowed Kipenzi to roam, as we were with her siblings Kopano and Jamie when they were small. It's heartbreaking that this happened where it did despite our precautions."


Zoo officials said Kipenzi's mother, Katie, was allowed to visit her calf's body before veterinarians and keepers removed it.

"We have animals that are closely knit socially," Edell said. "We often times will give them a few moments to help them understand what has transpired."

Edell said the zoo staff need time to grieve, too.

"Keepers work with their animals every single day," he said. "They come in and they're extended family, so it's devastating to lose any of them."

Kipenzi made headlines around the world in April when her birth was broadcast live on Animal Planet and streamed live on the Internet.

The zoo then held a popular naming contest that settled on Kipenzi, which translates to "loved one" in Swahili.

Zoo officials recommend The Giraffe Conservation Foundation — an organization it says helps protect giraffes in Africa — for those interested in making a donation in Kipenzi's memory.

NBC 5 Investigates has been looking at the zoo's inspection history.

Records show the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service just inspected the Dallas Zoo on June 15. There were no violations found during that inspection. The report says 13 giraffes were in the zoo's inventory as of last month.

The last time USDA inspectors found a violation at the Dallas Zoo was on Aug. 29, 2014. That inspection followed an incident in which a lion escaped from an enclosure.

The inspection report states, "Keeper error allowed a female lion to escape her enclosure on August 23, 2014. The animal was contained within a hallway however sedation was required to move her back into her primary enclosure."

The inspector writes, "A sedation performed in this type of situation is deemed to be an unnecessary and stressful event. This facility needs to ensure these types of events do not happen in the future."

The Dallas Morning News reported a zoo keeper was bitten on his shoulder and scratched on his chest during that August 2014 incident.

A Nov. 21, 2013, inspection report says USDA inspectors visited to conduct "a focused inspection" to evaluate the death of the lion Johan, but no violations were found.

NBC 5 Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman contributed to this report.

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