Nov 5, 2021 - News

The Dallas Zoo faces criticism over giraffe death transparency

A baby giraffe standing in front of some water.

Marekani, the 3-month-old giraffe euthanized at the zoo last month. Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo has been upfront about the recent spate of mysterious giraffe deaths and the ongoing investigation into what’s happening — but that has also resulted in a deluge of public criticism.

Why it matters: Zoo officials still aren’t sure what led to the deaths of 19-year-old Auggie or 14-year-old Jesse, noting that the giraffes may have been exposed to a toxin in their habitat, food or possibly a foreign object.

  • A 3-month-old giraffe named Marekani was also euthanized at the zoo last month after suffering a catastrophic knee injury inside the habitat.

The latest: Necropsies indicated that both adult giraffes died from liver complications, but the zoo is still waiting on a variety of other lab tests. Zoo officials have asked for help from experts around the country.

  • The rest of the giraffes have been isolated and are not showing any symptoms. "We're hopeful this is contained," Dallas Zoo’s vice president of marketing and communication Kari Streiber told Axios.

What they’re saying: Zoo employees have noted some harsh comments, especially on social media.

  • "People forget there are humans on the other side of the keyboard and the screen," Streiber said. "The toughest part is when you have an animal team or a veterinary team working their butts off, those people are also dealing with those comments."

Of note: The Dallas Zoo has had several young giraffes grow up to be healthy adults. Baby giraffes in the wild have a survival rate of around 50%.

Between the lines: After animal rights advocates successfully lobbied for changes at institutions like SeaWorld and prominent traveling circuses, the ethics of zoos is the next moral debate on the table.

  • The Dallas Zoo has been on the frontline of the national discussion.
  • Its YouTube page has a series of videos exploring "Why Zoos Matter."

Our thought bubble: Transparency is almost always the right way to go, even when there’s blowback.


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