Zoe the giraffe

Visitors were often able to feed Zoe, a 16-year-old giraffe at The Maryland Zoo. The animal died Thursday during a medical procedure. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / April 14, 2011)

Zoe, a 16-year-old giraffe at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, died Thursday after receiving anesthesia during a medical procedure. The reticulated giraffe was a favorite of visitors who occasionally were allowed to feed her

"We are stunned by the sudden loss," Zoo president Don Hutchinson said in a news release. "Zoe was truly part of our zoo family."

Zoe was anesthetized while getting her hooves trimmed — a procedure that is medically necessary to prevent overgrown toenails from becoming painful, and interfering with a giraffe's ability to walk.

There are risks associated with anesthesia whether the patient is an animal or human being. But, the procedure is particularly tricky for giraffes, because they have a complicated cardiovascular system owing to their long bodies and large necks.

"We never enter into anesthesia lightly, but there are times when it is necessary," says Ellen Bronson, the Zoo's chief veterinarian.

"Initially, Zoe seemed to be recovering well. Unfortunately, she became decreasingly responsive. Despite intensive treatment and resuscitation, we were unable to save her."

The Zoo has two other giraffes: 14-year-old Angel and 4-year-old Caesar.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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