Giraffe dies after collapsing in front of visitors at Jacksonville Zoo

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens officials have announced the humane euthanasia of Zawadi, the giraffe who collapsed Monday in the giraffe overlook exhibit.

The 19-year-old giraffe (seen here with one of her calves), was sitting down when she fell over on her side. Visitors were evacuated from the zoo's giraffe exhibit out of respect for the animal's condition.

Zoo staff worked with Zawadi Monday afternoon, giving her fluids, running tests to determine what was wrong and attempting to get her to her feet. But zoo officials said the effort proved too great for the stability of Zawadi's health.

A necropsy and lab work is scheduled for the next couple of days to try and reach a definitive answer on her cause of death.

"Our biggest concern right now is that she had a youngster," said zoo spokesman Tony Vecchio. "The youngster was mostly weened but was still nursing a little bit, so zookeepers are really going to have to pay attention to that baby and make sure it gets enough attention and the right diet to get it through this."

Zoo officials said Zawadi had no serious medical history prior to this sudden unexplained illness, and initial tests have provided no conclusive evidence of infection or disease.


Zawadi was the zoo's oldest giraffe and had given birth to eight calves at the Jacksonville Zoo, including her most recent in February.

"Zawadi was a favorite among Zoo staff, especially her keepers," Jacksonville Zoo supervisor of mammals Corey Neatrour said in a news release. "While very difficult to lose her, it was moving to see so many departments work tirelessly throughout the day to provide her the best possible care and attempt to get her to her feet. She will be greatly missed."

Zoo officials said Zawadi's youngest calf will be given special attention by keepers to ensure his diet and health are properly maintained without his mother.

"Losing an animal is always difficult for our staff especially after the team worked so hard and so long to save Zawadi," Dan Maloney, deputy director of Conservation and Education, said in a news release. "We take some comfort from the fact that her passing was peaceful, and her caregivers were there with her to cradle and stroke her head during her transition."