Giraffe at New Jersey zoo dies during medical procedure

An 18-foot tall Masai giraffe at New Jersey's Turtle Back Zoo has died from complications during a medical procedure.

Hodari arrived at the zoo in Essex County from South Carolina in 2015, and was one of four giraffes that were part of the zoo's African Adventure.  Hodari was considered the marquee attraction of the Giraffe House.

Officials say the 11-year-old died Wednesday under anesthesia.

The procedure became necessary when zoo staff observed Hodari exhibiting strange behavior. During a visual inspection, Turtle Back’s veterinarian Dr. Jon Bergmann noticed something was wrong with the teeth in the back of the giraffe’s mouth.

About three weeks ago, Hodari was put under anesthesia so the veterinarian and a dental specialist could get a better look at the problem. Hodari awoke from the first exam without any negative effects. However, when he was placed under anesthesia the second time so the procedure could be done, he experienced complications.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Hodari. On behalf of Turtle Back’s staff, we cannot express how great this loss is."

Dr. Jon Bergmann says they knew there were risks, but they believed the procedure would be beneficial.

The exact cause of death will be determined by a necropsy.  The results will not be known for about a month.

Hodari was one of four Masai giraffes who came to Turtle Back Zoo in December 2015 as part of the new three-acre Giraffe House in the African Adventure area. The exhibit also features animals found in the African savanna – eland, whistling ducks, ostrich and tortoises. The exhibit is the largest at Turtle Back Zoo and cost about $7 million to develop.

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