ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A Masai giraffe at the Seneca Park Zoo has a growth under her jaw that could kill her if left untreated, said the zoo’s veterinary staff on Friday.

Veterinarians say the 6-year-old giraffe, named Kipenzi, will need a biopsy and radiograph to determine what the growth is and how to treat it. They believe it could be tumor.

Previous radiographs have determined that the growth is continuing to swell. The growth in Kipenzi’s jaw has become so large over the past two weeks that it’s impacting her ability to eat.

Zoo officials first observed the growth in late spring of 2023. They started giving Kipenzi pain medications and antibiotics after noticing she had difficulty eating.

Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Chris McKinney will lead the team that will perform the biopsy on Aug. 15 in the zoo’s giraffe barn. McKinney has spoken about the growth with animal surgeons at The University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Binder Park Zoo in Michigan, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Buffalo Zoo, Cornell University, and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

“Unfortunately, if it is determined this is a malignant tumor, there is likely not anything further that we will be able to do for her,” McKinney said.

Kipenzi will undergo anesthesia, which McKinney say is risky for a giraffe because of their body structure with a long neck and the way their digestive system works. The team will carefully monitor breathing and blood pressure during the biopsy including by using a handheld blood analyzer. Veterinarians will also take radiographs or x-rays to learn more about the growth.

Kipenzi arrived at the Seneca Park Zoo in August 2018 and was the first giraffe to join the Animals of the Savanna exhibit.

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