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Oklahoma City Zoo giraffe Kyah dies during risky surgery to repair defect

A six-month-old giraffe named Kyah from the Oklahoma City Zoo died today after undergoing a risky surgery to repair a defect, according to an April 8 News OK report. Surgeons attempted the surgery, which was viewed by officials as the only way to save the giraffe's life. Unfortunately, the surgery did not work, and Kyah was euthanized .
Kyah's surgery took place in Stillwater, OK at Oklahoma State University. Kyah, who was born in September, was born with a birth defect. She had a persistent right aortic arch, which was life-threatening, and today's surgery was a long-shot effort at saving the giraffe's life.

Giraffe, Kyah, dies during risky surgery
Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Because of the birth defect, Kyah was unable to eat solid food. A blood vessel from her heart had grown around her esophagus. The more she grew, the tighter the blood vessel got around her esophagus completely blocking solid food from getting to her stomach. Kyah's mom, Ellie, has birthed three calves at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Fortunately, the other two were not born with the birth defect.

Kyah, the giraffe, is the first known example of this type of defect in a giraffe. It is much more common in cats and dogs. Jennifer D’Agostino, zoo director of veterinary services said that the surgery was incredibly risky, but that it was the only option for the six-month-old giraffe. She said,

"The zoo family is grateful to our colleagues at OSU's veterinary medical hospital for their expertise and hard work. 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."

Unfortunately, today's surgery was not a success, and the Oklahoma City Zoo, OSU Veterinary Hospital, and many others around the state as well as the world are saddened to hear the bad news. The positive is that now there is more information about this rare defect, and perhaps zoo officials will be better able to care for a giraffe in the future that is born with this type of defect.

Recently, a zoo in Copenhagen was criticized by citizens of the world for feeding a giraffe to lion (if you missed this story, see the video above for more details). At least this situation in Oklahoma City was one where officials were trying their best to care for Kyah.

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