Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 7:58 am | Fog/Mist 61º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Zoo Euthanizes Aging Male Giraffe

17-year-old Taru died Friday after his health took a sudden turn for the worse

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s male giraffe, Taru, was euthanized Friday. He was 17 years old.

“We had been treating him for several issues over the past months, and he seemed to be doing fairly well,” said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal programs. “However, he became suddenly worse Friday morning, and the decision was made to humanely euthanize him.”

A necropsy has been performed, though the results will not be available for several weeks. It is believed that his final ailment was consistent with the challenges of old age. His body was transported to Los Angeles, where he was cremated Saturday morning. At age 17, he had lived longer than most male giraffes.

“Taru touched the lives of countless zoo visitors and the professional staff who cared for him for almost two decades of his long life here,” zoo CEO Rich Block said. “Losing Taru leaves an empty spot in the experiences of the thousands of guests who saw him — or were slimed by his long tongue during a feeding on the giraffe deck. He had a unique personality, and I miss him.”

Taru was born at the Oklahoma City Zoo on June 23, 1992, and came to Santa Barbara on June 16, 1993. He was a Baringo (or Rothschild’s) giraffe, which are found in Uganda and in western Kenya. It is believed that his name was taken from the Taru Desert, what is now Tsavo National Park, a vast arid region of Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia.

Taru would sometimes slime zoo visitors with his long tongue during feedings on the giraffe deck
Taru would sometimes slime zoo visitors with his long tongue during feedings on the giraffe deck. (Sheri Horiszny photo)

The zoo’s only male giraffe, he produced four offspring. One is still living: Eritrea, born in February 2000, who was recently transferred to the Tulsa Zoo as part of a national cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Taru was not related to Gemina, the zoo’s famous “crooked necked giraffe,” who passed away last year at age 21. They did breed, in 1999, producing a female offspring named Kia, now deceased.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is making a transition from exhibiting Baringo giraffes to showcasing Masai giraffes, as part of a regional program of giraffe management with several West Coast zoos, including those in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Two young female Masai giraffes will arrive in Santa Barbara within the next few months from the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo’s remaining Baringo giraffe, Sulima, considered quite elderly for a giraffe at age 20, will live at the Santa Barbara Zoo for the remainder of her life.

— Julia McHugh is the public relations director for the Santa Barbara Zoo.

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