The exact cause of Harold the giraffe's death may never be known, after final animal autopsy results proved inconclusive, Orana Wildlife Park confirmed yesterday.

But the Christchurch zoo's staff, who were devastated to lose the 19-year-old kids' favourite last month, are already in discussions to import a replacement.

Harold was found dead by his keeper on June 22, and initial necropsy results found he died after inhaling regurgitated food into his lungs.

He was suffering from an inflammation in his fourth stomach chamber before his death, which Orana's chief executive Lynn Anderson said could have resulted in the "instant, painless" death.


Final laboratory results proved inconclusive so the zoo will never know exactly why he died, but it's believed the stomach condition may have caused him to regurgitate his last feed of lucerne hay and leaves, which he then inhaled into his lungs, killing him instantly.

Harold arrived in Christchurch from Chicago in 1994 and was named after the mascot of the Life Education Trust.

While New Zealand's largest wildlife and conservation centre gets to use to life post-Harold, they are hoping to bolster their giraffe population.

"We are working closely with the Australasian species co-ordinator for giraffe who is investigating all options for us. We hope to have more information soon," a spokesman said.