A giraffe at a zoo in Kunming, southwestern China's Yunnan Province, has died after getting its neck stuck between two tree branches while trying to scratch an itch on Monday.
The 10-year-old male giraffe named Hairong had been living at the zoo for five years until the incident.
It's a common habit for the animal to scratch its neck through the tree to ease a hard-to-reach itch. However, Hairong got trapped this time around.
After zookeepers discovered the situation, they quickly worked together with veterinarians to try to free the animal. They attempted to reach its head using a ladder, but it was firmly lodged.
Video footage filmed by a visitor shows they eventually cut down one of the branches to help Hairong get out of the situation, but he collapsed to the ground immediately after, suffering severe neck damage.
Veterinarians performed chest compressions and pharmacotherapy on the giraffe. He tried several times to stand up but was finally pronounced dead after a five-hour ordeal, Kankan News reported.
Visitors were horrified to see the shocking moment, while the rescue process has also prompted online accusations of negligence.
"Why didn't they prop up the giraffe before cutting the branches? That fatal fall could have been avoided," a user commented on China's twitter-like Weibo.
However, when interviewed by local media Yunnan.cn, Wang Ang, a veterinarian at the zoo, responded it was Hairong's panicked reaction that ultimately led to his death.
"An autopsy has shown that the giraffe died because of its reaction, not asphyxiation," said Wang. "The most urgent thing to do is to free him, falling would not cause death," Wang added.
Wang also said the zoo plans to preserve the giraffe's body as a specimen.
The zoo expressed regret about the incident and was conducting an investigation into the potential dangers of cages, offering a better environment for the animals.
A zookeeper is recuperating in hospital after his arm was hit by the giraffe's neck as it fell, the Paper reported.