Tragedy as 'world's tallest' baby giraffe dies at Devon zoo
A rare eight-day-old baby giraffe has died at a Devon zoo.
The Rothschild's calf, born on Tuesday to mother Janica and father Yoda, was reported as being the tallest baby in the world.
But the 6ft (1.8m) unnamed male was found in its stall by keepers at Paignton Zoo early this morning.
"This was a shock to all of us," said senior keeper of mammals Matthew Webb.
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"Keepers were watching the calf closely each day and he had been doing very well, he was strong and active, coming out with the rest of the herd and resting in the paddock in the sun.
"His mother was attentive but it's possible that either she did not have enough milk, or was simply not allowing him to feed properly.
"Giraffe babies can go downhill very quickly - with most new-borns, if they get ill or haven't fed properly they will fade very rapidly.
"We did not step in, as he was obviously getting milk – hand rearing is very much a last resort. This was a shock to all of us."
Dad Yoda was born at Givskud Zoo in Denmark in November 2004 and arrived in Devon two years later.
Mum Janica came to Paignton Zoo from Duvr Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
It is third time in recent years a Rothschild's giraffe has died at the zoo.
Last year, vets had to put Kitto the calf to sleep after he was rejected by his mother and developed breathing problems.
In 2006, a fire killed a mother and her week-old calf.
Neil Bemment, the zoo's curator of mammals, said although the death was "very sad", it was part of the normal struggle of working with endangered species.
"A post-mortem examination will be carried out. One possibility is that he had not had enough milk from mum, but he could have caught an infection, so we can't be sure at this stage."
Giraffe calves are the tallest babies in the world and can reach up to 20ft (6.1m) when fully grown.
Rothschild's are one of the most endangered subspecies, with fewer than 700 of the animal left in the wild. They are native to Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.
As part of the European Endangered Species Programme, the zoo has a remaining herd of three adult Rothschild's and two juveniles.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out to find out why the giraffe died.