Dallas Zoo devastated by loss of wildly popular giraffe calf

Kipenzi takes a break in the giraffe feeding yard July 10, 2015.

Kipenzi in the giraffe feeding yard July 10, 2015.

Accident claims Kipenzi, whose live birth in April mesmerized the world

The Dallas Zoo is devastated to announce the death this evening of Kipenzi, the giraffe calf whose birth on Animal Planet Live captured the hearts of people worldwide.

“This is a huge loss for our giraffe herd, our staff and our guests,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo. “To be honest, it hurts terribly. We’re crushed, and everyone here is mourning. Please keep our staff in your thoughts.”

Keepers were routinely shifting the giraffe herd into their night barn just after 5:30 p.m. when the gangly calf began to scamper about the feeding yard, as she has done since her public debut on May 1. She made a sharp turn and ran into the perimeter edge of the habitat. Preliminary results indicate three broken vertebrae in her neck, and that she died immediately.

“Running is a typical behavior for giraffes of all ages, especially young ones like Kipenzi,” said Harrison Edell, the zoo’s senior director of living collections. “We’ve been very cautious with where we’ve allowed Kipenzi to roam, as we were with her siblings Kopano and Jamie when they were small. It’s heartbreaking that this happened where it did despite our precautions.”

Her mother, Katie, visited Kipenzi before veterinarians and keepers removed her.

On May 1, Kipenzi made her first official public debut in the zoo’s giraffe feed yard with Katie and “Uncle” Auggie. Since then, Kipenzi had explored the habitat regularly. She was the third giraffe calf raised in the Giants of the Savanna habitat since its opening in 2010.

Kipenzi’s birth caught the attention of animal-lovers worldwide after the Dallas Zoo and Animal Planet launched the joint project GIRAFFE BIRTH LIVE this spring on the Animal Planet L!VE streaming video site. Millions of people fell in love with Kipenzi after she made her debut April 10 in front of adoring fans on Animal Planet and Animal Planet L!VE. The “Giraffe Birth Live” TV special on Animal Planet drew 1.4 million viewers on April 11, and the live birth saw more than 2 million streams on APL.tv.

Given the groundswell of love for Kipenzi since her birth, the Dallas Zoo encourages guests to post photos of Kipenzi or leave messages of support for staff on its Facebook and Instagram pages. For those interested in donating in Kipenzi’s memory, the Dallas Zoo recommends The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, our partner at the forefront of protecting giraffes in Africa. Click here to make a donation.

Categories: Africa, Giraffe | Tags: , , , | 34 Comments

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34 thoughts on “Dallas Zoo devastated by loss of wildly popular giraffe calf

  1. Joyce

    Wow! That is all I know how to say. I am deeply sorry for the loss of the Dallas Zoo. It is never easy to lose a family member. Remember that the nation came to love that calf and the keepers just the same. God bless each and every one of you. Prayers will be abundant.

  2. donna ferris

    Such a sad loss today. You guys are great with all the animals at the zoo.
    Thank you for caring so much for them.

  3. Dovie Bowen

    My heart is breaking. I watched Kipenzi’s birth and was so excited to watch her stand and nurse for the first time. I’m so sorry and my heart breaks for all of the staff. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers over the next few weeks as you all grieve the loss of this precious baby. Bless you all.

  4. Virginia Bacon

    Totally heartbroken. Watched Katie while she was pregnant. Then watched her give birth to Kipenzi. Then fell in love with Kipenzi. Watched her almost all day every day on the live cam until they turned it off. Haven’t cried this hard since I don’t know when. RIP Kipenzi. I loved you and you were loved by millions.

  5. Debra Moore

    My family and I were out to lunch the day that Kapensi was born, and we sat there for well over an hour after we finished eating to watch Kapensi come into this world. Although her presence here on earth was cut short by a tragic accident, she will still live on in the memories of millions. My families thoughts and prayers will be with everyone there, including Katie and the rest of the herd. I believe that animals do feel loss. RIP Kapensi!

  6. Ellen

    I am devastated by your loss. I watched faithfully for days awaiting her birth. My heart aches for all of you. I am so incredibly sorry.

  7. RudeeK

    I’m so very sorry to read of the loss of Kipenzi. My thoughts and prayers go out to her keepers, who I’m sure are devastated.

  8. Jane & Dave Roth

    We are sorry for your loss. We know how much you love and cared for Kipenzi. Our hearts go out to you.

  9. Emily Burns

    We happened to come across the live birth in April when we were setting up a TV. We watched the little one for over an hour while she attempted to stand and finally stood up on all four legs. We visited the Dallas Zoo this last Saturday July 25th (we were visiting from Arizona) and got to see Kipenzi in person. Such a tragic loss for everyone!

  10. Debra

    OMG, I’m so devistated this happened to poor Kipenzi. I shared in her birth and considered it one of the best experiences of my life.

    God bless everyone at the Dallas Zoo as I’m sure they’re all extremely sad right now. As we all are…

    Will always keep her in my mind and close to my heart. Thanks for sharing her with us we sure did enjoy her!!

  11. Emily

    My deepest sympathy with the loss of Kipenzi. My heart aches with all of yours. The staff of the Dallas Zoo will be in my prayers along with the entire giraffe heard as they too mourn the loss her. I know her short time here was filled with love from around the world.

  12. Tracy

    Keeping the heard and keepers as well as all that were close to Kipenzi. I just recently moved to the Dallas area and was excited to be able to go take my two daughters meet her and the other animals in the fall. We are all heartbroken by the news. God bless.

  13. Donation was just given in memory of our sweet Kipenzi. I am so happy I had multiple opportunities to meet her in person. Rest in peace our little one. God bless Katie, Auggie, Jamie, Tebago and the rest of the herd at this time. She will live in their hearts forever.

  14. Roxann Castellano

    I fell in love with Kipenzi and Katie. I am heart broken along with you at the Zoo and everyone else. I have been crying and am so sorry for the tragic loss of sweet baby Kipenzi. My prayers and thoughts are with Katie and all the Giraffes as they too morn the loss. *HUGS*

  15. I have to say how every time I see this I cry. It is such a sad and tragic accident. I know those of you who worked with her are even more deeply hurt by this loss. My friend Kelly took several really pretty pictures of Kipenzi and has shared one on of those already. I just wanted to send my condolences and let you know that you are not alone in your grief.

    I also wanted to ask how the mom and herd are doing, I assume they understand she is gone and grieve too in their way. My cat roamed the house crying her special call to her mate (when he suddendly passed) calling to him over and over and it was like a knife in my heart each time, for 2 days she did this with great frequency and kept searching for him and for several more days she would search for him calling to him less and less well wow, it hurt all the more seeing her hurt.. I sure hope the mom is alright and that you all stay strong through this.

    My deepest sympathies.

  16. To my Dallas Zoo family,

    I’ve never met you – and I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Kipenzi although I was planning on it (I live in NYC) – but I feel so close to all of you, Kipenzi, Katie, Uncle Auggie, Kopano, Jamie and the herd. I woke up this morning hoping this was just a nightmare. My heart aches knowing I won’t see another Kipenzi update or laugh watching her run circles around Mama Katie. Kipenzi radiated joy and love which brought such a bright light to my life. Her spirit lives on in all of us.

    As a lifelong giraffe lover, I was overjoyed by watching a pregnant Katie pace around her maternity stall, giving birth to this little baby giraffe, her first clumsy steps, nursing from Katie and bursting with excitement once we found out her gender. Voting on her name, watching as the world did the same, and seeing your zoo keepers dance around the maternity stall quietly, as to not startle Katie and Kip, brings the happiest tears to my eyes. Kipenzi truly captures everything about being a “loved one”. Her name could not be more fitting.

    We all know what an incredibly special girl our Kipenzi is. Always so happy and goofy. When the cameras went off, I was anxious that we wouldn’t get enough updates about our girl. But you came through, Dallas Zoo. I adored every single update, being able to bare witness to her growing up into the gorgeous girl she is at 3 months old. She feels like a sibling to me. To say I’m devastated and heartsick is an understatement, but I’m comforted by the memories of Kip, her “zoomies”, her knack for knowing where the camera was, rough-housing with her siblings and the natural love she had for her beloved Mama Katie and her keepers. She was so happy in your care and it showed. I’ve always been so grateful to be a part of such an amazing, heartwarming, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I’m even more grateful now to be a part of Kipenzi’s life. She was with us for such an achingly short period of time but made such a HUGE impact on raising awareness about her species. Her footprint is larger than we could have ever imagined. I believe Kipenzi was an angel with bigger plans.

    I’ve said “thank you” since April 10 and will continue to say THANK YOU for sharing Kipenzi and your giraffe family with us. They have made a special home in my heart and I have you, Dallas Zoo, to thank. I send lots of love and light to you, her keepers and staff, who devoted so much of yourselves to ensuring her health and happiness.

    Sleep tight, sweet Kip, knowing how many people have watched you grow and will forever be warmed by your memory. I love you, Kipenzi, Mama Katie & herd. For always.

    • Sue Naniot

      This is an exceptionally beautiful tribute to Katie, Kipenzi and the Dallas Zoo. Thank you for taking the time to share your reflections. There will continue to be a season of tender sadness, but, indeed, the spunk and joy of our little Kippy will certainly outshines any darkness we’re feeling today! Blessings to all! My thoughts and prayers go out to all who followed and cared for our dear Loved One!

  17. Laura

    Our family is deeply saddened over the loss of sweet Kipenzi. The above picture saying little Kipenzi is taking a ‘break’ might want to be re-thought. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the staff of the zoo. I can’t imagine how hard this is on them.

  18. Sharie Meade

    I am so devastated to hear about your precious Kipenzi. She was loved so much by all of us. My heart goes out to all of you who loved her so. She was so sweet and her little face just made you smile and go “awwwwww”. Thinking of all of you.

  19. Diane

    We are grieved to hear the news of Kipenzi’s accidental passing. How much more sorrowful must the zoo caregivers be? I can’t imagine your loss. Please be comforted with the knowledge that so many people around the world are standing with you during this time. I have made a contribution to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in memory of Kipenzi. I hope this helps the life of another little giraffe. Thank you, thank you for sharing her birth with the world.

  20. Amanda

    I feel very silly sitting here at my desk, occasional tears running down my face, all because of the tragic loss of Kipenzi the giraffe at the Dallas Zoo. I feel as though sharing my thoughts on Kipenzi’s death may bring some peace.
    Kipenzi the Giraffe was born April 10, 2015 at the Dallas Zoo in Texas. The weeks leading up to her birth and the birth itself were live-streamed to millions of viewers, including myself, 24 hours a day on Animal Planet. During this time I was frequently up until the wee hours of the morning preparing for finals, and writing essays due in the coming weeks. At two, three, four, even five in the morning I could count on Katie (Kipenzi’s mother) to keep me company while I worked tirelessly.
    Like many giraffe lovers who watched the live stream, I looked forward to turning the giraffes on any time I could. I had it on in my room, in the library, and was even allowed to keep it on while I was at work. One morning at 6:00 am, the stream was on when I lost a 12-page essay for a politics class, and as funny as it sounds, the giraffe made me feel better. I was hopeful that Katie would have an easy delivery, and I pretended that the giraffe hoped I would do well on all my projects. It was a funny friendship, but one that I truly cherished.
    I watched Kipenzi’s entire delivery, even turning down a taco truck run so I didn’t miss a moment (which is a huge deal!). And once she was born I voted on her name, kept up to date with new pictures and videos and even wanted to plan a trip to Dallas to visit the 6 foot tall baby. I felt a connection with Kipenzi. I compared the many months Katie carried Kipenzi, to the many months I studied. We both hoped for a positive outcome…a healthy baby giraffe and A’s in all my classes. And so, perhaps now you can understand why I am so devastated by the loss of Kipenzi. As giraffes continue to be more and more endangered, on the verge of extinction, the loss of this almost four month old is a tragedy. With so much loss occurring in the world right now, this death hits home.
    Rest in Peace Kipenzi, although I never got to visit you in person, I truly considered you a four-legged friend. One that I will cherish and never forget. I hope that my donation to The Giraffe Conservation Foundation in your memory, will help bring someone else the joy of wild animals, specifically giraffes that you brought me

  21. Susie Van Dyk

    Words can’t express the sorrow I’m feeling right now. Loved this little girl like she was my own. My prayers are with all of you because if I hurt this much, I can’t imagine the hurt you all are feeling. Love and prayers to all. I pray that Katie will be all right through this loss.

  22. Betsy

    I am saddened at the loss of beautiful, baby Kipenzi. She was a joy to watch and I loved her instantly. Know that my entire family, here in Atlanta, GA., is grieving over this loss but we send prayers for peace to the Katie, the entire Giraffe family, their keepers and the Dallas Zoo community.

  23. Deb

    my condolences to everyone at Dallas Zoo! How heartbreaking that a fun romp with her brother Kopano resulted in death for beautiful Kipenzi. She was indeed loved by all who were privileged to witness her birth & first couple of weeks of life via APL and DZ. How are Katie and the herd coping? I’m sure their caregivers are helping any way they can. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  24. Linda Kittrell

    My heart is breaking. My sympathies are with the entire staff at the Dallas Zoo–especially her caregivers, and also with the entire giraffe herd. They will miss her and will grieve for her, too.

    Please keep us informed about Katie and the other giraffes.

  25. Patricia nicholas

    So sorry to hear about the untimely death of dear beloved Kepinzi. I am praying for the entire staff as you mourn the loss. Praying for Katie as well, adjusting to her loss of a child. Mourning deeply with you, as I have watched Kepinzi from birth excitedly about everything she did. God be with you.

  26. Ellen Brantley

    My heart is broken. I am devastated by this news as I am sure millions of others are as well. I pray you will all seek solace in knowing that you made her short life as good as you could have. Poor Katie, my heart aches for her.

  27. maggie de la garza

    I am so devastated and couldn’t sleep last nite just thinking of this precious baby as my husband & I went to meet her asap at the zoo. It was so hot but we went anyways. My condolences to the staff and especially to her mama. I hope that she does not get sick of grief over losing her baby. May I ask if the baby will be buried on the grounds? I never have the heart to part with my beloved pets. I have them cremated but my ferrels that I love and feed and care for, I have buried them in our yard….so hard to part with them after many years…. Again, my thoughts and prayers for all of you. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go to the zoo again as I’m so heart broken. Maggie Ronje-De La Garza-Irving, Texas

  28. Zenobia Brown and family

    So so sad

  29. Christine Avramopoulos

    I am so heartbroken and sad for all at the Dallas Zoo, especially those who care for these beautiful and gentle giraffes. I will make a donation in Kipenzi’s memory, as I am a true believer in the care and welfare of these wonderful giraffes both here and abroad.

  30. Carol

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your Kipenzi. She will be missed.

  31. Luanne

    I was so sorry & sad to hear about our cute “little” Kipenzi. I watched her birth and even watch for the many days after before the cameras were taken down. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to all the staff who so caringly too care of her and her mom, Katie. I hope there will be another birth in the distant future.

  32. I was just devastated when I read about Kipenzi. I watched everything about the birth and the days after her birth while in the giraffe pen. She was so sweet and this is just terrible. My thoughts are with her keepers and the Zoo. I am just heartbroken. One can only imagine how wonderful she would have been as an adult Giraffe.

  33. Cam DeB

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dallas Zoo staff at the loss of Kipenzi. My granddaughter loved to visit the zoo and most especially the giraffes – Tobogo
    being her favorite – I must have gifted her with a huge number of stuffed animals. She was watching the live birth and at 3 years old wasn’t totally
    Sure what was happening. It was our honor to see this dear little calf and pray there is a place in Heaven for all the dear animals!

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