Utah’s Hogle Zoo Says Goodbye to Oldest Giraffe, Daphne
Utah’s Hogle Zoo is mourning the passing of Daphne, the oldest giraffe in North America. At 31 years old, Daphne far surpassed her fellow giraffes – a testament to the loving care she received. The average lifespan for giraffes is 15 years.
Animal care staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Daphne based on her decline in strength, low energy and a lesser response to pain medications.
“We found her lying down which Daphne hasn’t done for a long time” said Dr. Erika Crook, Associate Veterinarian. “We’d been monitoring her for a few months and as is often the case with animals, they let you know when it’s time.”
Keepers noticed a decline in Daphne’s comfort and attitude. “She wasn’t as perky as usual and she was more sedentary,” said Lisa Ellison, giraffe keeper.
“She was having aches and pains like a great grandmother would,” said Dr. Crook. “She needed medication to make her comfortable.”
It began taking keepers a longer time to convince Daphne to take the medications, “they worked hard and used every trick up their sleeves,” Dr. Crook said.
Animal care staff took their cues from Daphne on how to proceed day to day. Her advanced age, and related degenerative musculoskeletal issues finally caught up with her. She also exhibited a considerable decline in appetite.
“You know, she went on her own terms,” said giraffe keeper Lisa Ellison. “She had a nice week last week – the weather was warm, she was moving well and we had a good last week with her. It was just her time and she let us know that.”
Daphne came to Hogle Zoo in 1985 and was a wonderful mother to many calves and a caring ‘auntie’ over the years, including, most recently, to baby Willow.
“She was a very ‘judgy’ giraffe,” Ellison joked. “She just had this look that looked like she was judging you. She was also very observant – she learned by watching the other giraffes.”
Hogle Zoo currently has three female giraffes, including four month-old Willow, and one adult male. The Zoo continues to work in conjunction with AZA, SSP (Species Survival Plan) and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation – the recipient organization of the Zoo’s animal encounter proceeds.
Daphne will continue to serve as an ambassador to her marvelous yet threatened species as Hogle Zoo will make contributions to various museums, including the Museum of Osteology.