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Baby zebra born on Christmas dies at Arizona zoo

A baby zebra at an Arizona zoo died Tuesday after she suffered a neck injury less than two months after her birth. 

The zebra, named Tikiti Maji, was in her habitat at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo on Tuesday when a gust of wind appeared to startle her mother, Anna, according to the zoo. Anna abruptly moved, but stopped short of a fence. Tikiti Maji, who had been running alongside her mother, did not stop and hit the fence. She died instantly due to the neck injury. 

"My heart goes out to Anna, who was an attentive and watchful mother to Tikiti, as well as to the Zoo's animal care professionals who give their all each day to ensure that every animal at Reid Park Zoo receives quality, loving, and uninterrupted care," Reid Park Zoo President and CEO Nancy Kluge said in a statement. "We are absolutely heartbroken by the loss."

The zebra foal was born on Christmas morning, according to the zoo. She became more adventurous and independent as she grew.

"In a very short time, Tikiti won everyone over with her playful nature and energetic spirit. The care team is taking the unexpected loss very hard. She will be dearly missed," Reid Park Zoo Director of Animal Care Adam Ramse said.

Mom Anna with Tikiti Maji
Mom Anna with Tikiti Maji Reid Park Zoo

The name Tikiti Maji means "watermelon" in Swahili, according to the zoo. Mom Anna had enjoyed eating watermelon while pregnant. The mother will get extra care from the zoo as she grieves. Her son Haroo had recently transferred to another zoo.

The zoo said zebra foals are "delicate newborns." In July of 2020, another one of Anna's foals died. Young zebras have a high mortality rate and, as a species, zebras can become easily startled, according to the zoo.

Before Tikiti's birth, the zoo modified the zebra habitat to make the barriers more visible. The care team also gave the mom and foal increased access to the larger main zebra habitats and instituted a quiet zone surrounding the zebras' behind-the-scene areas.

Tikiti was a Grevy's zebra. The long-legged species is endangered, with under 2,500 remaining in the wild, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Grevy's zebras are the largest species of zebra, standing 4 yo 5 feet tall at the shoulder. They can weigh between 770 and 950 pounds when fully grown. 

The species can live for 12 to 13 years, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

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