The biggest crowd-drawer to Santa Barbara Zoo passed away on Wednesday.
Gemina, the zoo’s famed and beloved crook-necked giraffe, was recently euthanized by the zoo staff, which announced her death yesterday. The 21-year-old Baringo giraffe, who outlived her sole offspring by several years, is survived by the zoo’s three other giraffes.
Zoo officials made the decision to put her down after trainers noticed a distinct decline in her appetite over the last few weeks, and recently she stopped eating all together. SB Zoo Director of Animal Programs and Conservation Alan Varsik said in an Associated Press article that the staff made the decision in order to end the giraffe’s suffering.
“Her declining condition appeared to affect her quality of life,” Varsik said. “We did everything we could, but the time came when we had to make the humane decision.”
Although results from a necropsy will not become available for a few weeks, the zoo does not believe her neck condition contributed to her death. Varsik said old age was likely the factor in her decline in appetite.
“Her demise is consistent with the challenges of old age,” he said.
SB Zoo CEO and Director Rich Block said that Gemina, whose “hockey stick”-shaped neck developed around age three – a condition that was likely the result of a benign bone growth – actually lived to a considerable age.
“Though a few giraffes in captivity have been known to live into their late 20s, reaching age 21 is considered an achievement,” Block said.
The crowd-drawing giraffe was a boon to the small zoo for years, and attracted visitors from around the world.
“She was a great animal ambassador, showing that differences can be accepted and even celebrated,” Block said. “She will be missed.”
Gemina had also developed a following around UCSB and Isla Vista. The deceased had three Facebook groups dedicated to her, although none were created to mourn her death as of press time.