ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A beloved Rio Grande Zoo giraffe was dismembered and placed in a trash bin following its death, and an outraged mayor of Albuquerque has ordered an investigation into it.
Mayor Richard Berry said through a spokesman Tuesday that he will take appropriate action when he finds out who is responsible. He has ordered a report on the incident to be done by Friday morning.
"This is nothing short of outrageous and the mayor has expressed that very publicly. This is unacceptable behavior from a city employee," said mayoral spokesman Chris Ramirez.
The giraffe, Kashka, had suffered a debilitating leg injury after a recent fall. Zoo officials said attempts to treat her condition would not likely be successful, so veterinarians decided last week to euthanize the 16-year-old giraffe that stood 15 feet tall and weighed about 2,000 pounds.
A necropsy of the animal showed that in addition to ligament damage in her left rear knee, Kashka was in the initial stages of peracute mortality syndrome, a wasting disease that is common and usually fatal in giraffes but not well understood.
Kashka was born at the Miami Metro Zoo on Jan. 3, 1994. She arrived at the Rio Grande Zoo later that year and went on to have six calves over the years.
"She was a good mother and we're very, very sad and we're embarrassed and upset," said Betty Rivera, the director of the city's cultural services department, which oversees the zoo.
Kashka was like a family member to many zoo employees, so her disposal in a trash bin near the zoo has been hard for them to accept, Rivera said.
Instead of following protocol and taking the giraffe to the landfill, a zoo worker put the dismembered giraffe carcass in a bin near the zoo last Thursday. A garbage truck driver spotted the remains the next day and reported it to his supervisor.
The zoo, like the city's animal shelters, is required to take any animal remains to the landfill, where they are properly disposed of in a special area.
While the investigation is ongoing, Ramirez said city officials have learned that the unidentified worker who put the giraffe's remains in the trash bin had apparently been given a similar task some time ago and followed protocol by taking the remains of a sea lion to the landfill.
"He knew what was expected of him. He just made a very, very bad choice," Ramirez said.
Acknowledging that the incident is an embarrassment for the zoo and for Albuquerque, city officials said they hope people realize this is not a reflection on the rest of the zoo staff.
"It's unfortunate," Ramirez said. "The zoo staff gets really attached to the animals that are there, especially the larger ones like the giraffe. They are really upset about this."