We’re deeply saddened to announce the loss of our resident male Baringo, commonly known as Rothschild, giraffe, Emba. He was born October 23, 1995 at the Oklahoma City Zoo and resided at several other facilities before arriving from White Oak in 2014 for the opening of our giraffe habitat.
Emba was 22 years old. The median life expectancy for a giraffe is 20 to 25 years.
On April 7, 2018, Zoo staff found Emba lying on his side. Animal care and veterinary teams responded to the habitat immediately to assess his condition. We decided to separate Emba from Gage and Rafiki, our two younger giraffes, for his safety and to assist with behavioral observation and medical administration. The cause of his condition was initially unknown so staff consulted with veterinarians at several AZA accredited zoos who have worked with similar geriatric giraffe cases.
Since the initial episode, our veterinary and animal care teams have worked together to prescribe and administer care, including pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as rehabilitative exercises. Following a series of diagnostic evaluations, it was determined Emba was likely suffering from a degenerative spinal condition.
During the week of August 26, 2018, Emba relapsed and appeared far less stable when walking and turning. Our medical team recommended a treatment plan of medication and stall-rest in hopes of seeing improvement.
Despite these efforts and continuous monitoring, Emba’s status continued to deteriorate. Due to his advanced age and following a quality of life assessment, care teams made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Emba.
We understand many of our guests have a deep connection with the giraffes. Emba was known and loved by many—including staff, volunteers, guests and social media fans. Emba has served as a wonderful species ambassador. On a daily basis, we were able to educate guests about the plight of giraffe in their natural habitat while allowing them to connect with our boys through the feeding experience. This one-on-one connection is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for guests to come face to face with these magnificent animals. Emba’s presence and willingness to participate will certainly be missed.
Throughout recent generations, giraffe populations have decreased by as much as 40%. Scientists and conservationists are calling this decline a “silent extinction.” Though giraffe are one of the most recognizable animals in the world, many don’t realize the threats to their survival—including habitat loss, poaching and other human-caused obstacles.
We proudly participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for giraffe, primarily functioning as a home for male bachelors. We celebrate World Giraffe Day every year to help raise awareness for our giraffes’ counterparts in Africa.
The giraffe feeding experience will remain available as normal, but we ask our guests to be patient with us as our remaining giraffes, Gage and Rafiki, adjust to one less member of their tower.