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Paignton Zoo animal experts have taken the difficult decision to put a young Rothschild’s giraffe to sleep.

Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment explained: “He’d started to develop a distinct kink in his neck and x-rays showed that at least two of his vertebrae joints were collapsing. Treatment would be prolonged and stressful, and he would still be left with a bent and potentially painful neck which would become accentuated as he got older and his neck grew proportionally longer.”

The problem is called discospondylitis, an inflammation of the intervertebral disc and the adjacent vertebral bodies usually caused by infection.

Neil: “He had been back in the herd for a few weeks, but had not been moving around as much in recent days. He had been resting his head on the fence so was put on pain killers as a precaution while we arranged for the x-ray.”

The youngster, born in May, was rejected by his mother Janica, so zoo keepers stepped in to bottle feed him. Afterwards Neil paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of his staff: “Many of the keepers and their colleagues from our vet team have put in long hours caring for him, feeding him at all hours and patiently gaining his trust. It is the first time we have ever had neck problems of this kind.

“Naturally this is a blow, but working with animals brings highs and it brings lows, as anyone who has ever owned a pet or kept livestock will know. They will also know that you have to do the right thing for the animals in your care.” Rothschild's giraffes are classified as Endangered.

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