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Giraffe at Los Angeles Zoo dies from birthing complications

Asali, a 26-year-old Masai giraffe, had given birth to 12 calves since 1988. She was one of the last ones caught in the wild and brought to the U.S.

July 25, 2009|Jean Merl

Asali, a 26-year-old Masai giraffe who lived at the Los Angeles Zoo for most of her life, has died from apparent birthing complications, zoo officials announced Friday.

The giraffe, who had successfully borne 12 calves since 1988, died after zoo veterinarians worked for two days to remove a stillborn calf. Although they were able to remove the calf, the mother died afterward, officials said.

"The Los Angeles Zoo is saddened by the loss of Asali," the zoo's director, John Lewis, said in a prepared statement. "Over her many years here at the zoo, Asali was viewed by millions of visitors and over two generations of schoolchildren.

"For many who will never travel to Africa, Asali served as an ambassador to her wild cousins and provided our guests with the opportunity to marvel at the beauty and massive height of this species," Lewis said.

Asali was one of the last Masai giraffes caught in the wild to enter the U.S. when she arrived as a not-yet fully grown 1-year-old. Her offspring and some of their offspring have helped add to the giraffe populations at zoos across North America, officials said.

Bob Barnes, the zoo's registrar, recalled picking her up when she arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in December 1983.

"We loaded her shipping crate onto a stake-bed truck and drove her up the Harbor Freeway to the zoo," Barnes said. The crate didn't have a top, he added, so "a lot of the people on the Harbor Freeway were surprised to see a giraffe."

The zoo has five remaining giraffes, ranging in age from four months to 23 years.

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jean.merl@latimes.com

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