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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rookie zookeeper quits after poisoning two giraffes, killing one

By Rachel Quigley

Poisoned: Watoto died after being fed toxic leaves from a rookie zookeeper who then quit in the wake of the male giraffe's death

A zoo official who was responsible for poisoning two giraffes, killing one, has resigned.

The unidentified apprentice at Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, accidentally mixed up the plants and gave the giraffes leaves from a deadly plant.

He was said to be 'horrified and devastated' by his mistake.

Poisoned: Female giraffe Denver was also fed the toxic leaves and is currently recovering

Scene: Reid Park Zoo in Tucson said they are putting things in place to ensure this does not happen again

Zoo officials told 9 On Your Side the apprentice accidentally mixed in the leaves of an Oleander plant with leaves from other plants and fed them to the giraffes.

Oleander can be deadly if eaten by animals.

Watoto, the zoo's only male giraffe, died July 19 after eating the toxic leaves.

The Oleander was put into two of the four giraffe stalls on Monday night.

Jim Schnormeier, the head curator at the zoo, said the next morning, Watoto acted very unusually.

He said: 'He was lethargic. He was laying down and very seldom do you see a giraffe lay down, his appetite wasn't there.

'Our philosophy is if you don't know what it is, you don't feed it. Our focus right now is trying to get our giraffe better after this crisis.'

Unscathed: The two other giraffes at Reid Park Zoo did not eat the toxic leaves and are doing fine

Zoo administrator Susan Basford said: 'We have apprentices here at the zoo and that person was not as experienced. It was mistake compounded by mistake and it's horrible.'

The apprentice was said to be part of a 12-month programme run by the zoological society and was due to run out in September.

Zoo officials said it was his own decision to resign but they did not tryu to talk him out of it.

They said he was studying to become a zoo keeper and is distraught about what happened.

Nancy Schlegel of the Zoological Society said: 'It's hard to see a young person having to go through that as well as the tragedy that all of us are feeling.'

The other giraffe, Denver, who ate the toxic leaves is said to be improving.



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