The Oklahoma City Zoo is mourning the loss of a baby giraffe that died during surgery to fix a fatal birth defect.
The 8-foot-tall "baby," named Kyah, had an abnormal blood vessel wrapped around her esophagus that blocked solid food from her stomach. Surgeons at Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences tried to remove the wayward vessel Tuesday, but the four-hour operation was unsuccessful, zoo officials said.
Kyah was euthanized on the operating table.
"We knew the odds were not in Kyah's favor but we had to try," said zoo spokeswoman Taran Henson.
Without surgery, Kyah would have starved to death.
"We're glad we made this attempt," said Henson, describing the "emotional day" for the 20-strong team of veterinarians and caretakers who participated in the procedure. "And it's been amazing to see all the support from all over the world."
One of those supporters, Henson said, was a boy born with the same rare defect as Kyah, known as a "persistent right aortic arch."
"He said he knew how hard it is," she said.
Kyah's birth defect was not considered hereditary, and her mom, Ellie, will breed again, Henson said.
While the zoo staff mourns the loss of Kyah, they're also preparing to celebrate another young animal's third birthday.
"Malee was our first ever elephant baby," said Henson, describing birthday plans that include cake made from fruits, veggies and yogurt.