Cali the giraffe is gone, leaving behind a 17 ½-foot hole in the hearts of visitors and staff at California’s Chafee Zoo.
Cali was a 23-year-old reticulated giraffe—quite old for the species—who had spent 22 of those years in the Chaffee Zoo at Fresno, California. He was transferred from Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas, in 1995.
Cali had to be euthanized on March 10, zoo Marketing manager Ciara Castellano told the Fresno Bee.
“It came to the point where we said, ‘His quality of life isn’t where it should be anymore,’ ” she explained.
Cali suffered from severe arthritis and had been taking pain medication to maintain some ability to move.
Zookeeper Alex Alamar asked her friend, artist Kate Kennedy to draw a small picture to mark Cali’s passing.
Some goodbyes leave a 17 1/2 ft hole in your heart. Earlier this month, we lost our elderly male reticulated giraffe, Gali. Because she is amazing beyond words, @allmyfriendsarefish asked @katekennedyart to memorialize my big handsome old man for me. It means more than I can possibly explain. #myheart #zoo #zookeeper #bestgirlfriend #shegetsit #art #igart #giraffe #reticulatedgiraffe #bighandsome #day15 #100daysofhappiness
Alamar posted the picture on Instagram, with the message, “Some goodbyes leave a 17 1/2 ft hole in your heart.”
Other zoo employees added their comments.
One, using the name moon.dragons.garden, posted, “I did giraffe feed for a year. Cali was the best. It’s true that giraffes remember voices. I would call him over to me between public feedings and we would talk and I’d sneak and give him extra leaves. About a year after leaving the zoo, I came back with my baby twins to visit. Cali was at the giraffe feed and we went thro as customers. He was being stubborn and wouldn’t come for the girl calling him. So I called him, in the same way I used to “Angaaaalia!!” And he came right over. He lingered with me and my babies. As soon as we walked off he did too. It was a special moment I’ll never forget. I’m so sad to hear of his passing!!”
The Chafee Zoo had five reticulated giraffes. They are popular in part because visitors can feed them by hand, with leave purchased from the zoo.