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It is with great sadness that Zoo Miami officials had to make the difficult decision this morning to euthanize Pongo, a nearly 12 year old male giraffe.
For several months, Pongo had experienced increasing pain in his left rear hoof due to a previously sustained small fracture. In an effort to treat that fracture and other issues that he was experiencing as a result, he was immobilized this past September. A special team of several veterinarians, as well as experts from three different institutions, performed X-rays on his feet, while providing him with laser therapy and fitting him with custom shoes in hopes that those combined treatments would promote the healing of the fracture and alleviate his pain.
Against difficult odds, the immobilization was successful and the team was able to fit Pongo with custom shoes that did seem to alleviate the pain. Initially, this resulted in him walking normally which was a huge relief to the team. However, several weeks after the procedure, the shoes detached and sometime following the loss of the shoes, he apparently re-injured that hoof and began to again favor it significantly.
The Animal Health team performed a series of treatments in an effort to provide Pongo with maximum comfort in the hopes that he would heal without the need to immobilize him again. Immobilizing a giraffe is an extremely risky procedure due to their size and it was agreed that another immobilization would take place only after all other options were exhausted.
Unfortunately, none of the treatments were effective and the decision was made to immobilize Pongo this morning to perform detailed X-rays and hopefully be able to provide him with a successful treatment. Sadly, the X-rays revealed that within the last two weeks he had further fractured his foot in a way that prevented the Animal Health team from being able to treat it successfully and the painful decision was made to euthanize him while he was still under anesthesia.
Pongo was born in February of 2009 at the Denver Zoo and arrived at Zoo Miami in November of the same year. Since his arrival, he has grown into the tallest giraffe in the Zoo Miami herd and had become a favorite of countless guests who had the pleasure of feeding him at our Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station. He will be terribly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him and the privilege of working with him.
Photo by: Ron Magill