Baby Giraffe Euthanized by Zoo After Sustaining 'Catastrophic Injury'

The Dallas Zoo announced on Tuesday that one of their animals, a three-month-old giraffe named Marekani, was euthanized due to severe injuries. Officials, however, have yet to determine the cause of her wounds.

Since Dallas Zoo announced the news on social media Tuesday, their Facebook post has received an outpouring of support, racking up over 15,000 reactions and thousands of comments.

Known as the world's tallest land mammals, giraffes are often a favorite zoo attraction. However, in recent years, some have begun to argue against keeping the massive creatures in captivity at all. In Europe, activists have called for zoos to phase out captive giraffes in their facilities, advocating instead for an emphasis on the protection and conservation of their wild populations.

The injuries sustained by baby Marekani, whose name means "America" in Swahili, were described by the zoo as "catastrophic" to the animal's wellbeing—a fact made even more alarming because of the mystery regarding their cause.

The giraffe was born July 4 of this year, reported The Dallas Morning News.

According to a statement released by the zoo on Facebook, the zoo's staff first noticed something was amiss with Marekani when she was "observed walking with a limp" on Saturday. However, she was able to walk to her barn, along with the rest of her herd, as usual.

"She and her mother, Chrystal were given their own space in the barn, allowing the team to be able to observe her more closely," the zoo's statement said. "The veterinary team performed a visual examination and did not see any external wounds, severe swelling, or deviation of the leg at that time."

Marekani was given pain medication and allowed to rest through the night, with veterinary staff planning to re-evaluate her status the next morning.

However, by Sunday morning, things had not improved and the giraffe's leg had deteriorated. Marekani was then sedated so that veterinary staff could evaluate the extent of her injury.

"During this procedure, veterinarians determined that she had dislocated her right elbow and fractured both her radius and ulna," said the zoo. Unfortunately, because of the creatures' unique bodies and immense height, these types of injuries are far deadlier in giraffes than they would be in humans.

Explained the zoo: "Due to their large stature and because giraffes bear the majority of their weight on the front limbs, it is nearly impossible to repair an injury like this in a way that is robust enough to stand up to the normal stress of movement and activity."

"Sadly, injuries like this are catastrophic for giraffes, and there was no hope of recovery," they wrote. "Given this prognosis, the team made the incredibly difficult decision to humanely euthanize Marekani on Sunday, October 3."

While they remain uncertain of how the injuries were sustained, Dallas Zoo noted that they "are working diligently to gather information."

In an email to Newsweek, Dallas Zoo confirmed that while their investigation remains ongoing, they are looking at "a few scenarios ... each involving a possible interaction with another animal or errant move that Marekani may have made in the habitat."

"We have shared information about the incident with our accrediting body, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), with the USDA, and with an expert who coordinates the giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP)," added the Dallas Zoo spokesperson. "We will continue to work closely with each, as we evaluate potential habitat adaptations and/or policy changes and will make changes if we identify anything we can do to ensure something like this does not happen again."

The zoo described the loss as "incredibly heartbreaking," especially "for the staff who cared for her each day."

"Thank you to the staff at Dallas Zoo for doing what is best for the animals and being transparent with those who will never understand," wrote one commenter. "My heart is with you guys."

A newborn giraffe calf with his mother, 2013. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images