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Giraffe at New York zoo recently diagnosed with cancer is now pregnant

​Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester said a biopsy revealed its giraffe Kipenzi has a squamous cell carcinoma growth on her jaw.
Kipenzi at the Seneca Park Zoo
Posted at 4:31 PM, Nov 20, 2023

A Masai giraffe at a zoo in New York who was recently diagnosed with cancer is now expecting a baby, the zoo recently announced

Back in August, Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester said a biopsy revealed its giraffe Kipenzi has a squamous cell carcinoma growth on her jaw that continues to grow at a slow rate. The biopsy procedure was done after caretakers noticed a growth on her jaw in the spring. 

Since the cancer was confirmed, she has been given weekly exams and monthly X-rays. 

Ultrasounds taken during some of her medical procedures revealed she is pregnant, and the zoo expects a calf next winter, though due dates are difficult for them to predict due to giraffes’ long gestation periods. 

Kipenzi is receiving a topical antitumor treatment for her cancer diagnosis, the zoo said. 

“The medication stimulates the giraffe’s own immune system to attack the tumor,” said zoo veterinarian Dr. Chris McKinney. “This is the first use of this medication in a giraffe, though it has proven to be very safe for use in multiple species.”

The zoo said Kipenzi is eating well and behaving normally throughout her treatments. Giraffe pregnancies are always considered high-risk, but Kipenzi’s sensitive medical condition adds to the caution. 

“Given the location of the tumor within the bone of the jaw, there is no way to remove it without compromising Kipenzi’s ability to eat and ruminate, or chew cud,” said McKinney when the zoo announced her diagnosis. “The prognosis is poor. This type of tumor is rare in giraffes, but in the few cases reported, the cancer spreads into the lymph nodes.”

A study published in 2021 that looked at 30 giraffes from different institutions across the U.S. concluded tumors were most commonly found in the female reproductive tracts of the mammal. 

Another female giraffe at the zoo, Iggy, is also pregnant and expected to give birth soon. 

Gestation periods in Masai giraffes can last up to 15 months and calves can be six feet tall when they are born. 

Masai giraffes are native to Kenya. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, they were formerly the most populous giraffe species. 

Now, Masai giraffes are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.