Houston Zoo giraffe passes away

Born at the Los Angeles Zoo on November 10, 1995, Kiva arrived at the Houston Zoo on April 6, 1997. (Photo credit: Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo)

March 1, 2012 11:19:52 AM PST
The Houston Zoo is mourning the passing of a long-time and much-loved zoo resident. Kiva, a Masai giraffe, was 16 years old.

Born at the Los Angeles Zoo on November 10, 1995, Kiva arrived at the Houston Zoo on April 6, 1997. In his 15 years at the zoo, Kiva made many friends among staff and guests alike. Kiva fathered 10 calves, 5 of which are part of the zoo's giraffe family at the McGovern Giraffe Exhibit in The African Forest, Hasani, Neema, Jack, Miles and Asali.

"It didn't matter if you were a guest or a zoo employee, Kiva was everyone's friend," said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi who arrived at the zoo as director three years after Kiva. "His captivating personality won over everyone he met. There is hardly anyone at the zoo who does not treasure fond memories of interacting with Kiva, an experience that usually included feeding him."

"Kiva was being treated for an orthopedic condition, degenerative arthritis involving his front hoof joints," said John Register, Houston Zoo hoofed stock supervisor.

In consultation with Dr. Mark Haugland, a Conroe veterinary orthopedic surgeon, Kiva underwent a procedure late last year in which his left front hoof joint was fused and a wooden block was placed under the hoof and secured to raise his foot off the ground, placing all of his considerable weight on the block.

"The block created a shoe for Kiva. It's a process that has been done with horses and cows but, as far as we know not previously with a giraffe," said Register. "The block lasted for six weeks and we did see some improvement in his condition."

On February 23 the fusing procedure was repeated with Kiva's right hoof joint and the hoof was trimmed.

"Follow up x-rays indicated his condition was not improving. He was in pain and he could not put weight on his front right leg. It was clear to the giraffe care team and his veterinarians that his quality of life was very poor with no prospect for improvement," said Register.

Following a consultation between the giraffe care team and the Zoo veterinary staff, Kiva was humanely euthanized early Thursday morning.