Giraffe dies 'of anxiety' in latest Taiwan animal scandal

Zoo staff caring for a giraffe at the zoo in Taipei on Aug 10, 2016.
Zoo staff caring for a giraffe at the zoo in Taipei on Aug 10, 2016.PHOTO: AFP/TAIPEI ZOO

TAIPEI (AFP) - A seven-year-old male giraffe has died of anxiety after being caged and loaded onto a truck at a Taiwan zoo, the latest animal death to spark angry calls for tougher protection laws.

The giraffe - named Hsiao Chiu - was due to be transported from the municipal Taipei Zoo to a private zoo for mating when he began to struggle and then collapsed, officials said Thursday (Aug 11).

"The zoo lost Hsiao Chiu in a painful accident," Taipei Zoo said in a statement, adding the trip had already been postponed from June so the sensitive animal could get familiar with the process.

The animal had died before the truck had even left for the private zoo in Hsinchu city, about 70 km from Taipei.

An autopsy showed the giraffe was suffering from pneumonia and anxiety from the transportation, which triggered breathing difficulties and muscle damage.

The giraffe died of lung and heart failure.

Animal rights advocates criticised the zoo while vowing to continue to push for tougher laws to protect animals in captivity.

"This kind of negligence that leads to animal deaths should have been prevented - but it keeps happening," said Chen Yu-min, director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan.

The giraffe's death made the front-pages of some local newspapers, which also criticised the zoo for failing to detect its illness.

The zoo said it had not given the giraffe a blood test before the trip to avoid agitating it.

The incident came less than a week after hundreds of birds, two cats and a dog died of heat exhaustion from being left in a container on an airport apron in baking temperatures for two hours.

The animals, destined for Malaysia, were found dead after they were left in a container without air holes at Taoyuan International airport near Taipei two hours prior to takeoff.

In 2014, a male hippo famous for regularly performing at a private zoo in central Taiwan died after breaking a leg and sustaining other injuries during transportation, sparking a public outcry.

The two-tonne beast was apparently panicked when it jumped from a moving truck, crushing its diaphragm and breaking a leg, only to sustain further injuries the following day when it was crushed inside a container while returning home from medical treatment.