Fact Check: Did Dallas Zoo Giraffes Die After COVID Vaccine?

Vaccine-skeptics online have shared a theory that giraffes at the Dallas Zoo have died after having the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Claim

Prominent QAnon supporter Jordan Sather shared two screenshots of online articles last week, one reporting three giraffe deaths at the zoo in one month and the other reporting the zoo's plans to vaccinate animals.

Sather linked the two stories and suggested a connection between them on social media, met with support from followers.

Sharing images of the two articles to messaging app Telegram last week, Sather wrote: "Sounds like vaccinating the animals made them sick and weak."

The CNN headline explained that the zoo was investigating the potential of the two latter deaths being related.

Sather's social media post, and suggestion of their deaths being related to the vaccine, was welcomed by his followers—90 of which commented on the post, while over 38,000 viewed it.

"Dear lord, help us. Now it's the animals, and coming soon...the children," commented one user.

"Unbelievable how few people are able to connect the dots. Once they come for the children and animals that's where we draw the line," wrote another.

The Facts

One of the article screengrabs was a NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth report from September on Dallas Zoo's announcement of its plans to vaccinate animals at the zoo. The other was a CNN report from November 2, reporting on the deaths of three giraffes in the space of a month at the zoo.

On October 3, Dallas Zoo euthanized a three-month calf after she was injured while running; 19-year-old giraffe Auggie died on October 22 with age-related health issues leading to liver failure; and on October 29, 14-year-old giraffe Jesse died just days after showing signs of an illness. The blood test showed he had "abnormal liver enzymes."

The deaths of the giraffes are completely unrelated to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout at the zoo, as no animals have been vaccinated yet, nor did the zoo ever plan to vaccinate giraffes.

As reported in the same 5NBC article shared to social media, the zoo said it planned to vaccinate its big cats and apes—giraffes do not fall under either of these categories.

Despite being on the waiting list for the vaccines, the zoo confirmed to Newsweek that it has not yet received any or vaccinated any animals.

"While we are still working to find a possible link between Jesse and Auggie's deaths and determine what may have led to this, we can say with certainty that it is not related to the COVID-19 vaccine," the zoo said in a statement to Newsweek.

"We are still on the waiting list to receive doses of the animal vaccine from Zoetis. Once we receive the vaccine, we will begin vaccinating the animals that are known to be at the highest risk, including big cats and great apes."

Instead, the deaths of the two adult giraffes are simply being looked into by the zoo over concerns of a Zoonotic disease or toxin exposure.

"We are doing extensive lab testing on blood and tissue samples from Jesse and Auggie to identify commonalities and further pinpoint what may have happened. The necropsy results from both giraffes pointed to liver damage, which is leading us to focus on the possibility that they were exposed to a toxin of some sort, either through a food source, in the exhibit space, or introduced via a foreign object," the zoo told CNN.

"We also are testing for Zoonotic diseases, including encephalomyocarditis (EMC). With the help of outside experts from across the country, we are and will continue working through lab test results on blood, tissue, food, plants, and other items, in an effort to identify the cause, while also working to eliminate possibilities."

The death of the three-month-old giraffe calf Marekani is unrelated to the others as it was euthanized after suffering injuries while running with the older giraffes in their habitat.

According to the zoo's social media, Marekani was running along the inclined section of the habitat when one of her front legs "planted into ground at the top of the incline, causing her leg to hyperextend.

"We believe one of the adult giraffes was then unable to stop fast enough, colliding with Marekani from behind - the impact of which caused fractures to her radius and ulna," said the zoo.

"The Dallas Zoo provides the most naturalistic environments possible for our animals, which has so many benefits for both their physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, those natural surroundings have inherent risks, just as they do in the wild, where giraffes have a 50% mortality rate in their first year of life."

Newsweek has contacted Dallas Zoo and Sather for comment.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek

Posts circulating social media that suggest a link between the death of three giraffes at the Dallas Zoo and COVID-19 vaccines are false.

No animals at the zoo have been vaccinated as yet and the zoo does not have plans to vaccinate giraffes.

Instead, the zoo is simply investigating two of the deaths to find any potential reasons that could have caused both illnesses and deaths.

Giraffe and COVID vaccine
Left: This picture taken on May 23, 2020 shows a laboratory technician holding a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi. Right: Picture taken on February 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on February 9,. Getty Images