Baby Giraffe Dies After Being 'Unexpectedly Startled' At North Carolina Zoo

Fenn, who was only 6 months old, apparently hit his head on a gate after being frightened by a nearby giraffe.

The North Carolina Zoo is mourning the death of a baby giraffe named Fenn.

The 6-month-old nursing giraffe died Wednesday after being “unexpectedly startled by another giraffe” and hitting his head on a gate while attempting to run away, the zoo announced Thursday in an obituary on its website.

“The North Carolina Zoo is heartbroken to announce the untimely death of Fenn, the beloved six-month-old giraffe calf, whose birth and presence at the Zoo delighted individuals around the world,” the zoo said in its statement. “A grief counselor has been brought in to support staff members.”

The North Carolina Zoo, based in Asheboro, claims to be the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, with more than 1,700 animals and 52,000 plants. Fenn was born May 20 to a first-time mother named Leia, who is 14, and Jack, who is 15.

“Fenn was an energetic and vibrant addition to the giraffe herd (or tower) and quickly became a cherished member of the Zoo community,” the zoo wrote Thursday. “His playful antics and charming nature endeared him to staff and visitors alike.”

Fenn was nursing Wednesday when another giraffe unwittingly jolted him into bolting off and colliding with a nearby gate. The zoo said he “sustained head and neck trauma from the fall” and died in the late evening, despite veterinarians tending to him.

Fenn, a baby giraffe like the one pictured here, was only 6 months old when he died Wednesday.
Fenn, a baby giraffe like the one pictured here, was only 6 months old when he died Wednesday.
John Minchillo/Associated Press

“The North Carolina Zoo family is shocked and devastated by Fenn’s tragic death,” the institution wrote on its website. “Staff members, particularly the caretakers who formed a special bond with him since his birth, ask for respect and privacy during their time of grief.”

Fenn, who was named in a public poll of more than 100,000 votes, “will be remembered with fondness and love by all who knew him,” the zoo said. The menagerie has been open since 1976.

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