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Lodz Zoo Break-In Leaves 2 Giraffes Dead In Poland

05/15/12 11:39 AM ET AP

WARSAW, Poland — Two female giraffes at a zoo in central Poland died after vandals broke into the facility, and officials said Tuesday they are trying to find a companion for their last remaining giraffe – a male.

The break-in at the zoo in Lodz city occurred Saturday night, and the unidentified hooligans overturned signs and threw benches and garbage cans into animal runs, including one near where the three giraffes were.

Barbara Wicinska, a zoo official, said one of the female giraffes was found dead early Sunday, and a post-mortem showed she had died of stress. The other female giraffe was found dead early Monday. A test is planned, but zoo officials believe she died for the same reason.

The head of the zoo's breeding section, Wlodzimierz Stanislawski, said management is checking with other zoos in Europe to see if it can find a companion for Tofik, the widowed male giraffe. Like his two dead companions, Tofik is from the endangered Rothschild giraffe subspecies.

"It is a tough task because there are not many Rothschild giraffes in zoos, but we will try to fill in this sudden gap," Stanislawski said.

Meanwhile, city authorities and the national Animal Guard watchdog organization have offered a 5,000 zlotys ($1,500; euro 1,100) reward for any clues that help find the hooligans.

Investigators also are trying to find out why the zoo's security guards didn't call police until hours after the hooligans left the facility, which is not equipped with CCTV cameras.

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Filed by James Gerken  |