Denver, Reid Park Zoo’s Elderly Giraffe, Passes at 32

Denver, Reid Park Zoo’s beloved geriatric giraffe, was humanely euthanized on Thursday, September 23 due to declining quality of life, related to health concerns common in geriatric animals. At an incredible 32 years old, Denver was the second oldest giraffe in her Species Survival Plan, and far exceeded her species median life expectancy of 20 years. Denver was the oldest giraffe ever at Reid Park Zoo.

“Losing Denver is much bigger than her herd saying goodbye. Our three remaining giraffes will miss her, but her passing is profoundly sad for all of her human fans as well. She touched so many staff over the years as a gentle and curious giraffe. Denver was always the first giraffe in line to interact with her care team and to spy on whatever her zookeepers were doing. She connected with our guests year after year in giraffe feeding encounters. Some children grew up feeding her on every trip to the Zoo. She will be greatly missed by all,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoo Operations.

Denver was very healthy throughout her long life. In the last several years she was a leaner animal, looking like a geriatric giraffe with less muscle mass. However in the last month she had been eating less, her movement had become less fluid, and she developed tenderness in her hip area. “Despite successful long-term treatments and therapies, it became clear these conditions could no longer be medically managed and the decision to proceed with humane euthanasia was in Denver’s best interest,” said Dr. Alexis Roth, Chief Veterinarian at Reid Park Zoo.

Reid Park Zoo is dedicated to whole-life care and is home to several animals who have exceeded the median life expectancy for their species. Many species tend to live longer in zoos because of the nutrition, health care, and daily attention animal care professionals provide.

Reid Park Zoo is home to three other giraffes: Jasiri (age 10), Penelope (age 3), and Sota (age 2). After Denver was euthanized, her herd mates had the opportunity to see her and to say goodbye. Zoo animal care staff will monitor the giraffes in the coming weeks to be sure all three are well as the herd dynamics shift with the loss of Denver.

“Denver was an incredible ambassador for her species and will be deeply missed at the Zoo,” said Nancy Kluge, Reid Park Zoological Society’s President & CEO. “Over the years she inspired millions of people to connect with nature and to care about giraffes as a species, and she brought the Zoo staff joy every day.”

Giraffes are listed as a vulnerable species with fewer than 70,000 individuals remaining in the wild. By supporting Reid Park Zoo, you help support giraffe conservation through the Zoo’s partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, which works to save wild giraffes in Uganda.