Jason Witten — a 1-year-old giraffe named after the Dallas Cowboys tight end — died Monday while under anesthesia for a routine physical exam, Dallas Zoo officials wrote on Twitter.
“He was receiving a routine physical exam under anesthesia when he suddenly stopped breathing,” the Zoo wrote. “An urgent attempt was made to resuscitate him, without success.”
Witten was born April 25, 2017 to “second-time mom” Chrystal, the Zoo shared on Instagram at the time. Chrystal was in labor for two-and-a-half hours before the 5-foot-9, 130-pound calf was born.
The Zoo’s veterinary staff and giraffe zoologists are “heart-broken” but have performed these physical exams many times in the past without incident, the Zoo wrote.
“For humans and animals alike, there is always a risk associated with anesthesia and some animals react differently,” the Zoo wrote. It was Witten’s first time under anesthesia, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Witten was not sick before the examination, officials said.The calf was undergoing the examination in preparation to be transferred to a AZA-accredited Canadian zoo for breeding.
“Before crossing any borders, animals are required to undergo routine, yet extensive, medical testing, per government regulation,” the Zoo tweeted. “Witten was sedated so our vets could safely perform the physical and viral tests, including tuberculosis and brucellosis testing.”
The Zoo is conducting an internal investigation of the incident, including a necropsy — an animal autopsy – to determine the cause of death.
“Witten captured all of our hearts with his outgoing, lovable personality and will be deeply missed,” Dallas Zoo wrote. “Hoofstock animals, like giraffe, are incredibly resilient and move on quickly, as they would in the wild. But we are keeping a close eye on our herd.”