New York Zoo confirms pregnancy in recently diagnosed 6-year-old giraffe battling cancer

In a recent update on the condition of Kipenzi, a 6-year-old Masai giraffe at Seneca Park Zoo, veterinarians shared a surprising revelation about her health. The announcement comes several months after the initial diagnosis of cancer in the giraffe.

The New York zoo disclosed the pregnancy news while providing insights into Kipenzi’s ongoing medical care on Friday. Dr. Chris McKinney, a veterinarian at the zoo, explained, “In working closely with Kipenzi to train her for medical procedures, we have been able to take ultrasounds, as we had some evidence she might be pregnant. We can also now confirm and share that Kipenzi is pregnant.”

Dr. McKinney acknowledged the challenges of pinpointing exact due dates, stating, “While exact due dates are difficult to predict, we expect a calf this winter.” However, he emphasized the inherent risks associated with giraffe births and expressed caution due to Kipenzi’s existing medical conditions. He added, “Having said that, giraffe births are always high risk, and with Kipenzi’s medical conditions, we are extremely guarded in projecting an outcome.”

The zoo is taking extra precautions in monitoring Kipenzi’s pregnancy and providing care, given her cancer diagnosis earlier this summer. In August, the zoo revealed that Kipenzi had a squamous cell carcinoma growth on her jaw, leading to noticeable changes in her facial structure.

Steve Lacy, the zoo’s superintendent, commented on the tumor, stating, “Guests to the Animals of the Savanna habitats are now noticing the change in the shape of Kipenzi’s facial structure.” Despite the challenging circumstances, Kipenzi is undergoing a unique topical treatment for the cancerous growth. McKinney explained that the treatment “stimulates the giraffe’s own immune system to attack the tumor,” marking the first application of this treatment on a giraffe, with reported effectiveness in other species.

Despite the location of the tumor, Kipenzi continues to exhibit normal behavior, good appetite, and cooperation with the animal care teams. The giraffe, who turned six in April and joined the zoo in August 2018, is receiving dedicated attention from the zoo’s staff.

The zoo also disclosed that another Masai giraffe, Iggy, is pregnant and currently within her expected delivery window. Kipenzi’s jaw growth had been under observation since late spring 2023, with a biopsy in August confirming the presence of cancer.

Adam Bello, a Monroe County executive, expressed disappointment in the biopsy results, saying, “Sadly, these biopsy results are not what we were hoping for, but I know the zoo’s dedicated and compassionate animal care team will continue to do all they can to ensure she remains comfortable and does not suffer.”

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