Kipenzi, the baby giraffe who scampered her way into the hearts of millions around the world, died on Tuesday at Dallas Zoo. The animal is said to have broken her neck in an accident inside her enclosure.
The Texas zoo released a statement that said Kipenzi, whose birth in April was watched by more than 3 million people via Animal Planet, had been running around on Tuesday evening when she “made a sharp turn, and ran into the perimeter edge of the [giraffe] habitat.”
“She broke three vertebra in her neck, and passed away immediately,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. “Our hearts are broken… Tears are flowing freely here tonight.”
Kipenzi’s mother, Katie, “stood guard for a few moments” over her baby’s body before it was taken away, zoo officials say.
Harrison Edell, a senior director at the zoo, told CNN that running is “typical behavior” for giraffes of all ages. He added that staff had taken precautions to minimize the risk of injury to Kipenzi and the zoo’s other giraffe calves.
“We've been very cautious with where we've allowed Kipenzi to roam, as we were with her siblings,” Edell said. “It's heartbreaking that this happened where it did despite our precautions.”
Dallas Zoo, which has 12 remaining giraffes, said the staff was “devastated” by Kipenzi's death. The calf had been a shining symbol for giraffe conservation.
“Kipenzi was a beacon of light for her species,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. “Her stardom brought attention to the plight of wild giraffes in Africa, helped raise more than $35,000 for giraffe conservation and sparked conversations about her incredibly majestic species.”
Kipenzi's name means “loved one” in Swahili. According to the Dallas Morning News, more than 50,000 votes were cast in an online poll to choose the moniker.
Dallas Zoo is encouraging people to post photos and memories of Kipenzi on social media. It also urges those who wish to donate in Kipenzi's memory to do so via the Giraffe Conservation Fund.
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