The Vancouver Zoo released the cause of death of Jafari, a 12-year-old Rothschild giraffe who died unexpectedly there in November. The death of two other giraffes, each who died days apart in 2011, also unexpectedly, still haven't been determined.
The Zoo put together what it called in a press release an "investigative team of numerous independent giraffe pathologists and zoo experts" to look into the deaths and this week that group has determined Jafari's passing came from a degenerative brain disease that is not uncommon to giraffes.
“Jafari was suffering from a degenerative brain disease called encephalomalacia," Dr. Chelsea Himsworth, independent veterinary pathologist and part of the investigative team said. "There are a variety of causes of encephalomalacia in ruminants (animals with a fermenting stomach, like cattle, sheep, deer, and giraffes). The ruminant stomach is a giant fermenting vat filled with bacteria...(and) this vat can be extremely sensitive, and, on occasion, even very small changes in intake or digestion can cause those bacteria to produce toxic substances that can affect the brain."
The investigative team did not name any changes that may have occurred in the giraffe's diet that could have lead the bacteria in Jafari's stomach to produce toxic substances. It's unclear from the press release if in fact they were able to identify what changes were made, if any.
Vancouver Zoo: Giraffe's death a surprise
Jody Henderson, general manager of the Vancouver Zoo, said Jafari likely did not suffer much, if at all, appearing to have died quickly. “Definitely there were no signs of anything wrong with him,” she said. “Food, eating, drinking, bathroom--everything was completely normal behaviour.”
The Vancouver Zoo now has only one giraffe left in its care of the four it had just 13 months ago. In November of 2011, Jafari's son, Amryn, was found dead at the age of three. Again, there was no prior illness and at the time of his death, his mother, the 23-year-old Eleah, was not reported as being in ill health. However, she died November 20, 2011, just six days after Amyrn.