Dallas Zoo suspects two recent giraffe deaths are connected, may have been caused by toxins

Two recent deaths of giraffes at the Dallas Zoo may be connected, the zoo said Monday morning.

Necropsy results from giraffes Jesse and Auggie, who died within a week of each other in October, indicate both animals suffered liver damage. The zoo is investigating whether the pair were exposed to toxins or a contagious zoonotic disease.

The toxin could have come from food, their habitat or a foreign object, according to a written statement from the zoo.

“We still have intense work ahead of us to find a possible link between these two deaths and determine what may have led to this,” the zoo said. “The lab results we depend on for diagnosis and confirmation simply cannot come fast enough — for us and for you. We know it’s difficult to hear about these losses.”

The zoo announced the death of its tallest giraffe, Jesse, on Saturday. Jesse died after a quick deterioration that “closely mirrored” what another giraffe, Auggie, experienced before dying a week earlier.

Jesse, 14, came to the zoo in October 2008 from a wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa, Calif. Auggie, who was 19, had been “dealing with age-related health issues that led to liver failure,” the zoo has said.

The zoo said preventive measures were put in place before Jesse’s death, following the fatal injury of a 3-month-old calf, Marekani. She was euthanized Oct. 3 after she injured her leg while running along an inclined section of her exhibit.

Marekani’s death prompted the zoo to alter the terrain of the giraffe exhibit and add cameras to more closely monitor the animals. Auggie’s death also prompted changes to the giraffe’s habitat and feed yard.

The zoo said supplies and food have been thrown away, out of “an abundance of caution” while toxicology screens are completed. The zoo is also monitoring the health of its other giraffes — and other hoofstock species — for signs of illness.