Victor, a giraffe of fast-growing renown who fell spread-eagled to the ground last Thursday at a zoo in England, died yesterday of shock during an attempt to raise him to his feet with a winch.
Victor, 15, had fallen while trying to mate with one of three female giraffes in his enclosure, zoo officials believe.
The plight of the 1-ton fallen lover became front page news in England, prompting more than 1,000 messages to the Marwell Park Zoo in Marwell Hall 70 miles southwest of London and attracting crowds of sympathetic on lookers.
But Victor failed to survice the desperate effort to get him back on all fours. The Royal Navy concocted a plan to slip him into a pair of girafee-sized canvas trousers and lift him with a block and tracks hung from steel scaffolding.
The 18-foot-tall East African giraffe was raised in the air, then hung swaying from the scaffolding as workmen lowered him near the ground in a see-saw operation designed to restore circulation to his weakened legs.
But Victor developed breathing trouble as he was lowered, and suddenly died. Many in the crowd reportedly wept.
Zoo owner John Knowles could not be reached. His phone had been "taken out of order" because of so many inquiries about the giraffe, according to an English telephone operator.
But the acting general curator of the National Zoo here, William Xanten Jr., said, "This happens with young giraffes, but I can never remember it happening with an adult to this extent."
Xanten said it was extremely difficult for a giraffe to get out of a spread - eagled predicament and Knowles was quoted in a wire story as saying that Victor would have been "the first giraffe as far as I know to have done the splits and live."
Normally, according to Xanten, a giraffe gets down carefully to sleep on its breast bone with its legs tucked under. Upon awakening, a giraffe "comes up in stages," said Xanten, back legs first, then the front.
Xanten said that an abrupt fall such as Victor's probably meant that he slipped, or possibly that he just didn't feel well. He said it's hard to spot a sick giraffe until it collapses. (All six giraffes at the National Zoo are doing fine, including the newest addition born to Michael-John and Marge last October. He is naked after the director of the National Symphony, Mstislav Rostropovich, and called Slava).
Many suggestions were made on how to raise the weakened Victor, who was being fed intravenously: scare him with a lion; hypnotize him, a dig a pool of water around him and float him to his feer. Knowles rejected these, although he paraded Victor's three wives past him, including Arabesque, the one believed to have caused his downfall. And a faith healer was allowed to lay hands on Victor.
All the while, Victor seemed aware of the activity going on around him, from all reports. He continually turned his head to watch workers set up the lifting gear, and seemed distressed.
"It is always a problem with giraffes. They suppress their shock but their worry and concern is going on inside them," said Knowles. "Theyreach the point where they just give up."