PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Roger Williams Park Zoo said goodbye to their beloved 28-year-old Masai giraffe named Sukari on Wednesday.
The zoo says Sukari had long-standing arthritis that had been well-managed with different forms of care over the past few years.
“What we were doing was no longer keeping her comfortable. In addition to exploring therapeutic options, we also made behavioral and environmental changes, but she didn’t respond as we had hoped,” Jessica Lovstad, a clinical veterinarian at the zoo, said.
Lovstad says Sukari reached an age that is rare for giraffes. According to the zoo, nearly half of the giraffe born in the wild do not make it to their first birthday, and female giraffes in captivity average a 20-year lifespan.
Sukari, who would have turned 29 in February 2022, was one of the oldest Masai giraffes in human care in North America, the zoo said.
She was born at Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens on Feb. 27, 1993, and arrived at RWPZ at just nine months old.
“Of all the stories about Sukari we could share, one will forever leave a lasting impression,” zookeeper Rachel McClung said. “A young boy and his father would visit the giraffe every Saturday. After learning how much he loved the giraffe and some of the challenges he faced, we arranged for our young friend to meet Sukari. Although tentative at first, Sukari’s sweet and calm demeanor eased his fears and resulted in happy tears from all. These two new best friends were lost in their happy moment together.”
Giraffe populations have declined drastically over the past 30 years, according to the zoo.
There are only about 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild, and they are considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.