Utah’s Hogle Zoo mourning death of 18-year-old giraffe, Riley

Riley the giraffe. Photo: Utah's Hogle Zoo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 24, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah’s Hogle Zoo community is mourning the loss of 18-year-old giraffe, Riley.

“In recent months, staff have observed some age-related challenges with his mobility,” the zoo said in a Christmas Eve press release. “Riley was kept under close observation and under veterinary treatment for arthritis. Although he had been managing well, when zoo staff entered the giraffe barn Thursday morning of December 23rd, they found him unable to stand on his own. Riley was approximately 17 feet tall and weighed 2,000 pounds which presented a unique challenge to get him on his feet. Since giraffes are generally less intolerant of colder temperatures, they spend time indoors in a barn-like facility during colder winter days, but have access to a heated outdoor yard as an option.”

Alongside zoo staff and emergency personnel, the Salt Lake City Fire Department and Wagstaff Crane Service were on scene to assist with an all-day attempt to hoist the animal to get him to his feet. As his condition worsened, Riley passed away later in the day.

Dr. Erika Crook, director of animal health, said: “Hogle Zoo staff, and our partners who showed up immediately to assist with this giraffe emergency, did everything possible to help Riley but his condition was too advanced. We had wonderful support from other AZA colleagues who have experienced similar scenarios.”

A necropsy did not reveal what led to Riley’s death; a microscopic analysis of the tissues may yield more information at a later date, the zoo said.

Riley came to Utah’s Hogle Zoo on June 30, 2004 and sired six giraffe calves. The zoo’s African Savanna is home to two other reticulated giraffes: Minka, a four-year-old female, and Stephanie, a three-year-old female, who came to the zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan breeding program. A reticulated giraffe is the most distinctively patterned giraffe subspecies. Their brown and white, brick-like pattern, called a reticulated pattern, gives them their name, according to the zoo.

The AZA Giraffe SSP, states the average lifespan for a male reticulated giraffe is 14.7 years.

“Considered a vulnerable species by International Union for the Conservation of Nature, giraffe populations are in rapid decline across the African continent, about a 30% percent decline in the past 15 years,” the news release said. “Habitat loss, deforestation and bush meat poaching are main threats that giraffes face. The zoo works with the AZA Giraffe SAFE conservation initiative, Giraffe Conservation Foundation and Save Giraffes Now to help protect these towering and magnificent animals.”

Riley the giraffe. Photo: Utah’s Hogle Zoo

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