STILLWATER — Kyah, a 6-month-old giraffe from the Oklahoma City Zoo, was euthanized Tuesday after surgeons encountered complications during a surgery that was viewed as the only chance to save her life.
The 520-pound giraffe, born in September, was taken to Oklahoma State University on Tuesday morning for what was seen as a long-shot operation. The animal suffered from a persistent right aortic arch, the result of a birth defect. A vessel in her heart had grown around her esophagus, preventing her from eating solid foods. As the giraffe grew, the vessel coiled tighter around the pathway for food to reach her stomach. The surgery was seen as her only chance.
“The surgery was risky but critical because her mother, Ellie, was trying to wean her and she wouldn’t have thrived without the ability to eat solid foods,” said Jennifer D’Agostino, zoo director of veterinary services. “Although there were many risks, the surgery was her only chance to survive.”
Ellie has had three calves at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Kyah was the only one with the birth defect.
The condition is more common in dogs and cats. It was the first known example of a giraffe suffering from a persistent right aortic arch. The procedure required surgeons to open her chest cavity to locate the problem area. The decision to euthanize Kyah was made after attempts to repair the vessel that had grown around the esophagus were unsuccessful. A necropsy will be performed as part of the zoo’s standard procedure when animals die.
Collaboration with OSU
D’Agostino said Kyah’s chances of survival were low but that didn’t deter veterinarians at the zoo and at OSU from trying to give her a chance at life.
“The zoo family is grateful to our colleagues at OSU's veterinary medical hospital for their expertise and hard work,” D’Agostino said. “We knew going into this procedure that Kyah’s chances were extremely low and we felt we gave her every chance possible to thrive. Collaborations such as these also allow us to learn more about the species in our care.”
Reaction to the news of the surgery filled the zoo’s Facebook page throughout the weekend with well-wishers praying for Kyah to make a full recovery.
“We have had an incredible outpouring of care and concern and love from people around the world,” Oklahoma City Zoo media relations director Tara Henson said. “We’ve heard from colleagues at other zoos. Many have texted or called today with messages of support, and that means a lot to everyone involved in caring for her.”
We knew going into this procedure that Kyah’s chances were extremely low and we felt we gave her every chance possible to thrive. Collaborations such as these also allow us to learn more about the species in our care.”
Oklahoma City Zoo director of veterinary services