A degenerative brain disease was the cause of death for Jafari, one of two giraffes at Aldergrove's Greater Vancouver Zoo.
A detailed necropsy and study has pinpointed encephalomalacia, the zoo released Friday.
The brain syndrome was likely sparked by toxic substances created by bacteria in Jafari's gut, according to the specialist veterinarian pathologist.
Dr. Chelsea Himsworth of UBC, the pathologist, said there are a variety of causes of the disease in ruminants, a class of animals that includes giraffe along with cattle, sheep, and deer.
One cause is that the stomach of the animal can become unbalanced, with small changes in intake or digestion causing bacteria to produce toxins.
The exact mechanism linking stomach issues to the brain disease is not well understood, Himsworth said.
"Given all the information that we have, Jafari died very quickly and fortunately; there would have been little or no suffering," said Dr. Bruce Burton, the zoo's veterinarian.
Samples were sent to an independent lab in Michigan, along with samples sent to the Ministry of Agriculture lab in Abbotsford.
Jafari died on Nov. 4. He was found collapsed in his stall in his heated barn at 7: 30 a.m., and Burton arrived by 8 a.m. along with a zoo animal health technician.
Initial speculation that a combination of cold and a lack of fat stores had killed Jafari was ruled out early in the necropsy process, as the zoo said the young giraffe had enough abdominal fat.
Two years ago, a giraffe at the nearby Mountain View Conservation Centre died of the lack of fat during a cold snap.
The BC SPCA launched an investigation after Jafari died. Zoo officials have stressed that they provided excellent animal care.
There is just one remaining giraffe at the zoo, a young male brought in as a companion for Jafari.