Daniel, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Masai giraffe calf whose surprise birth made national headlines in January 2011, has died. He was one year and seven months old.
Zoo officials said he went into respiratory arrest on Monday during a root canal-like dental procedure to treat an abscess and infection in his lower left jaw. Daniel was anesthetized for the surgery and, when complications arose, he couldn’t be resuscitated. “We do not know what caused Daniel to go into respiratory arrest, but we suspect that he may have developed an obstruction of his airway,” said zoo veterinarian Dr. Julie Barnes in a prepared statement.
A necropsy will be conducted at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in San Bernardino, which is standard procedure any time a zoo animal dies, according to Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge in the same statement.
Keepers had noticed a lump in Daniel’s jaw two months ago. They treated him with two different antibiotics over several weeks, but saw no improvement, wrote zoo spokesperson Julia McHugh. It’s not known what caused the abscess.
The surgery was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday and dentists — who had successfully treated the zoo’s Asian elephant Little Mac this summer — were able to expose the affected roots and use laser treatment to cut away infected and dead tissue. “The roots were packed with antibiotics and prepared for a future procedure which would have filled the roots,” said McHugh.
But when Daniel awakened and tried to stand up, he was unable to stay on his feet. After he slipped into respiratory arrest, the zoo vets worked for 30 minutes to revive him. “There is no better team, and they did everything possible,” said McToldridge. “From his surprise arrival until now, Daniel won the hearts of staff and visitors and he will be sadly missed.”
The zoo expects its two female giraffes, Audrey and Betty Lou, to give birth next April.