TOPEKA — Fluid on the lungs, a difficult pregnancy and excessive heat were being blamed Friday for the death of a female giraffe and her unborn calf that had been under medical care the past week at the Topeka Zoo.
The adult giraffe, named B.G., and her unborn calf were found dead in their outdoor exhibit early Friday at the zoo, officials said.
Following a necropsy on Friday morning, B.G.' s cause of death was being attributed to pulmonary edema, a condition which caused fluid to gather on the lungs and other parts of the giraffe's body.
Also contributing to the giraffe's death was her otherwise healthy fetus, which was in the breech position. Zoo interim veterinarian Joe Kamer said there was no way the calf would have been able to be born in that position.
The unborn calf's size and position also were putting pressure on its mother's diaphragm and blood vessels, contributing to her medical problems, he said.
This week's hot weather, with four consecutive days of 100 degree-plus temperatures, may have contributed to stress the giraffe was experiencing, Kamer said.
Despite efforts this week to induce labor, Kamer said, "no labor had ever started. The baby had never tried to deliver."
B.G., a shortened version of the giraffe's full name of Bug Eyes, had been receiving intensive medical care over the past few days and Kamer said he was planning to continue treatment on Friday.
"You always want to make sure you are doing everything you can," Kamer said, "and we did."
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.
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," zoo director Brendan 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 died, 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.
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.
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.
Wiley said giraffes normally give birth in zoos when they are left alone: "Typically, when a giraffe is born, you come in and find it in the morning."