A Masai giraffe that made headlines for his unexpected birth at the Santa Barbara Zoo in January 2011 has died after being anesthetized for a dental procedure, zoo officials announced Tuesday.
The giraffe, known as Daniel, died Monday during treatment for an abscess and infection in his lower left jaw, according to Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s veterinarian.
“Everything went well during the procedure until the recovery phase, at which point he went into respiratory arrest and resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful,” Barnes said. “We do not know what caused Daniel to go into respiratory arrest, but we suspect that he may have developed an obstruction of his airway.”
A necropsy will be conducted at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in San Bernardino.
The dental work was performed by the same team of animal dental and health care professionals from The Colyer Institute, San Diego Safari Park, and Santa Barbara Zoo who successfully treated the zoo’s Asian elephant, Little Mac in June and July of this year, zoo officials said.
“Due to their unusual physiology, anesthetizing a giraffe is even more dangerous than anesthetizing an elephant, so we knew there was a risk going in to this procedure,” said Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge. “But it was what was best for Daniel. He needed the work done. Without it, his condition would have only become more painful and increasingly difficult to treat.”
Two months ago, keepers noticed that Daniel had developed a lump, suggesting an abscess, inside his lower left jaw. They treated him with two different antibiotics over several weeks, but saw no improvement.
Veterinarians from the Colyer Institute and their colleagues examined Daniel in July while they were at the zoo to work on Little Mac, and the young giraffe’s root canal-like procedure was scheduled for Monday at 9:30 a.m. in the Giraffe Barn.
The calf was first anesthetized and x-rayed to determine the most effective treatment. The dentists were able to expose the affected roots and used new laser treatment to treat to the surrounding infected and necrotic (dead) tissue. The roots were packed with antibiotics and prepared for a future procedure which would have filled the roots.
Daniel did attempt to stand following the procedure, but was unable to stay on his feet, zoo officials said, adding that the team worked for 30 minutes to revive him.
Daniel was born to Audrey, a young Masai giraffe who arrived – unknown to anyone – pregnant from the Los Angeles Zoo in March 2010.
The Zoo’s herd are all Masai giraffes, including Michael who arrived from Quebec, Canada, in January 2012; Daniel’s mother Audrey, born in February 2008 at the Los Angeles Zoo; and Betty Lou, born in August 2007 at the San Diego Zoo. The Santa Barbara Zoo’s elderly Baringo giraffe Sulima died at age 21 in June 2012.