Topeka A pregnant female giraffe that had been under medical duress the past few days and her unborn calf have died at the Topeka Zoo, officials said Friday.
Brendan Wiley, zoo director, said in a phone interview that he received an "emotional" call about 6 a.m. Friday from a zoo staffer informing him B.G., the adult giraffe, had died overnight.
The unborn calf also died.
B.G. had been under medical care for the past week after showing signs of stress. Zoo officials noticed about two weeks ago that B.G. was in the early stages of giving birth to a calf fathered by the zoo's male giraffe, Jesse.
Concerns were heightened this week when B.G.'s ears and neck started to droop.
"We had been closely monitoring her the past couple of weeks," Wiley said. "Earlier this week, we saw things turning for the worse."
Late Tuesday night, he said, zoo veterinarians had to make a choice: whether to focus on the health of the unborn calf or the health of B.G.
At that point, Wiley said, the decision was made to focus on B.G., under the assumption that if she was to die, there was no guarantee of the healthy delivery of the calf.
Performing a Cesarean-section wasn't an option, based on B.G.'s condition, the largeness of the calf and the nature of the surgery, he said.
B.G. was given medications to help reduce fluid on her lungs and to increase urine output, Wiley said.
Efforts were made to induce labor on Tuesday and Wednesday. Zoo officials said the longer B.G. went without giving birth, the more concern there was for her health.
By Thursday, B.G. showed enough improvement to be placed in a giraffe restraint. A thorough medical examination was performed on Thursday and blood tests were taken.
B.G. had been on a 24-hour watch for several days before zoo officials decided to pull back on Thursday night.
Wiley said zoo veterinarians and staff members "tried to do what we could to make her comfortable" and opted to give B.G. some solitude late Thursday night, in hopes that would enhance her chances to give birth.
B.G. was last seen alive at 9 p.m. Thursday and was alone at the time of her death, Wiley said. She was found Friday morning by zoo staff members. There was no indication she had gone into labor.
Wiley said a necropsy would be conducted Friday morning on B.G., age 25. Tissue samples would be sent to different research facilities, Wiley said.
Wiley said he wouldn't be surprised to find there were several factors including B.G.'s age, her pregnancy and the extreme heat that Topeka experienced this week, with four days in a row of 100-degree temperatures.
"I have a feeling this is one of those things where there is a combination of factors," Wiley said. "We may learn differently, but that's what it seems at this point."