21-Year-Old Giraffe Duke Euthanized by Jacksonville Zoo: Reports

December 12, 2018 Updated: December 12, 2018

The Jacksonville Zoo in Florida announced the death of 21-year-old giraffe Duke, which sired 18 calves since 2003.

“Unlike a person with extremely acute arthritis, an immobile giraffe is unable to utilize braces, canes or other mechanized assistance. Once a giraffe goes down, their prospects are bleak at best,” said Deputy Zoo Director Dan Maloney.

Zoo officials stated that the large ruminant was taking medication for severe arthritis. The animal was euthanized after zoo staff found it in its barn, unable to stand on Dec. 11. “Early Tuesday morning, giraffe keepers found Duke sitting in the barn and unable to easily get up. After encouraging him to stand, and seeing him unable, the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the treasured giraffe was made,” said the zoo in a statement to First Coast News.

Three of Duke’s offspring, Figi, Dixon, and JoJo, live at the Jacksonville Zoo.

 giraffe in the zoo is now dead
Zoo officials stated that the large ruminant was taking medication for severe arthritis. The animal was euthanized on Dec. 11 after zoo staff found it in its barn, unable to stand. (Jacksonville Zoo)

“We were lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know and work with such a special giraffe,” said Mammal Supervisor Corey Neatrour. “If he had lived another 100 years, it would not have been enough time with him.”

According to the zoo, Duke died “surrounded by his trusted keepers and with the rest of the herd near.”

A full examination of the animal is scheduled to see if there are any other underlying reasons for the death.

It comes a few days after a giraffe at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo died after giving birth via C-section.

A giraffe in South Africa
File photo: A giraffe in South Africa in 2013. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“We want to thank everyone for their support and concern during this difficult time for our team,” it wrote on Facebook.

Zoo officials said Cami had an emergency C-section to deliver the calf, which died during birth, the statement said.

The animal was being monitored 24 hours per day by animal care experts, but the giraffe collapsed around 1 a.m. on Dec. 7, and was unable to get back up.

The veterinary team immobilized her to assess her condition and provide fluids, but she passed a short time later. “Initial bloodwork suggested acute kidney failure, but a full necropsy will be conducted with pathology results expected in approximately six weeks,” said zoo staff in the statement.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission, meanwhile, said that three giraffe subspecies are now listed as  “critically endangered.”

“Whilst giraffe are commonly seen on safari, in the media, and in zoos, people—including conservationists—are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction. While giraffe populations in southern Africa are doing just fine, the world’s tallest animal is under severe pressure,” said Dr. Julian Fennessy of the organization.

“This is a conservation success story and highlights the value of making proactive giraffe conservation and management efforts in critical populations across the continent,” stated Arthur Muneza, East-Africa Coordinator of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, in the report.