Louisville Zoo Grieves Stillborn Masai Giraffe

ZOO CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
502-238-5331 (Media Cell 502-744-5639)
kyle.shepherd@louisvilleky.gov

The Louisville Zoo is saddened to announce the stillborn birth of a male Masai giraffe calf to Kianga. The calf was delivered stillborn at 2:52 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22, after two and a half hours of active labor.

Five-year-old Kianga had not shown any signs of complications during her 15-month pregnancy. The calf was large for a full-term giraffe birth at 165 pounds; typically, calves weigh between 125 – 150 pounds.

Zoo staff closely monitored the birth nearby on a closed-circuit TV to prevent disturbing Kianga during the labor and delivery. Any decision to intervene is made very carefully and involves assessment of risk and benefit with consideration for the safety of the staff and the animals.

“In these situations, our first priority is the health and welfare of the mom,” said Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, the Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian. “Kianga is a first-time mother, so we wanted to provide a quiet space where she could birth the calf as naturally as possible, without disruption.”

Following the birth, Kianga was immediately attentive, showed maternal instincts toward the stillborn calf and stayed close to him for some time. Kianga showed no physical signs of distress and giraffe keepers will monitor her for the next several days.

“As you can imagine, our keepers are devastated,” said Dan Maloney, Louisville Zoo Director. “To spend 15 months caring for an expectant mom, marking her progress, working in anticipation for that day, it’s just so heartbreaking when a birth doesn’t go as planned, even though we recognize there are risks for any pregnancy. Right now, we will console our teams, grieve for Kianga, and hopefully gain insights for the next giraffe birth.”

A necropsy was performed Thursday evening, but it will be several weeks before all pathology results are available.

The giraffe pregnancy was a planned part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for Masai giraffe. Breeding plans work to maintain the genetic diversity of managed animal populations in human care.

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About the Louisville Zoo

Since 2011, under Mayor Fischer’s administration, the Louisville Zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary, opened nine new exhibits and attractions, and won national awards for Glacier Run and School at the Zoo. Considered Kentucky’s most popular not-for-profit paid attraction, the Zoo welcomed nearly 9 million guests in the last decade. In 2021, the Zoo was voted “Best Place to Take Kids in Summer,” by LEO Weekly, “Best Kid-Friendly Attraction” by Kentucky Living Magazine and Boo at the Zoo made the Top 10 Halloween Festivals list by thetravel.com. Community Access Memberships, deep-discount days, the Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies partnership and the accessible playground are among prime efforts to make Louisville Zoo even safer, more engaging, and more inclusive. Among the Louisville Zoo’s most successful conservation programs, the black-footed ferret breeding effort produced 1,100 kits and repatriated more than 800 of these most highly endangered, American mammals to the wild.

The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state Zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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