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Beloved Santa Barbara Zoo Masai Giraffe, Michael, dies

He was 16
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Posted at 9:24 AM, Feb 16, 2023

One of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s beloved animals has died.

Zoo officials say Masai Giraffe Michael, considered geriatric at the age of 16, was humanely euthanized on Wednesday following a battle with arthritis.

“Michael’s keepers and veterinary staff have been closely monitoring and treating Michael’s age-related health issues for nearly a year. In recent weeks, despite their best efforts, the team saw a significant decline in his quality of life and made the difficult decision,” the zoo said in a press release, adding that along with the joint issues, they were also monitoring hoof issues, introducing soft surfaces into the giraffe habitat and barn and providing Michael with regular hoof trimmings and various medications to keep him comfortable.

The zoo says health issues like the ones Michael was experiencing are common in older giraffes.

“For over 11 years Michael was Santa Barbara’s tallest resident with an ocean view,” said Rich Block, president & CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Though he arrived at the zoo in December 2011, the quest to bring Michael to Santa Barbara began two years earlier. That effort was rewarded as Michael quickly became a much beloved zoo resident by the staff as well as by countless guests. He was a wonderful ambassador for giraffes and all animals. Michael’s close encounters with guests touched countless lives and created life-long memories. He brought a lot of heart to our community.”

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Considered to be the most genetically valuable male Masai giraffe in the Species Survival Plan, according to the zoo, Michael “played an important role in maintaining a healthy population for the species in institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”

During his time at the Sana Barbara Zoo, he sired 11 calves. Raymie, the most recent, was born in January of 2022.

“Michael has been an amazing animal to care for during his time at Santa Barbara Zoo,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, vice president of Animal Care & Health of the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Although very large, he was so gentle and engaging, and he was an excellent father to his calves. He connected with thousands of visitors at the feeding deck, giving them the opportunity to marvel and appreciate this iconic and unique species. Additionally, his contribution to the population by siring 11 calves has been vital to the genetic health and sustainability of the population, which is now endangered in the wild.”

Three Masai giraffes, Adia, Audrey and Raymie, now reside at the Santa Barbara Zoo.