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Denver Zoo's 19-year-old giraffe Heshimu dies after sudden decline in her health

Zoo staff determined the giraffe's condition was not recoverable and humanely euthanized her Friday.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo
Heshimu, a 19-year-old female reticulated giraffe, was humanely euthanized after a change in her health, the Denver Zoo said Friday.

DENVER — The Denver Zoo's 19-year-old reticulated giraffe Heshimu was humanely euthanized Friday morning after what the zoo said was an acute change in her health.

Heshimu, who was called Heshi by her keepers, was found Friday morning immobile in her indoor habitat. Her keepers and veterinary staff determined her condition was unrecoverable, the zoo said on Facebook.

Zoo staff hadn't been monitoring her for any health issues, said Denver Zoo spokesman Jake Kubie.

"We are heartbroken to say goodbye to Heshi, whose presence was large, but impact on Denver Zoo even larger," the zoo says.

Heshimu's death leaves Denver Zoo with two giraffes: 28-year-old Kipele and one of her offspring, 5-year-old Dobby.

Heshimu was born Sept. 12, 2002, at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and was moved to Denver Zoo on May 9, 2007, the zoo said.

She had two offspring, Cricket and Timber, who were moved to other zoos as part of the Species Survival Plan, a breeding program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

"For the last 14 years, Heshi inspired countless guests and helped connect them to her wild counterparts," the zoo says. "... Heshi was known as a sassy, independent, yet loving giraffe."

Denver Zoo's veterinary medicine team will perform a necropsy to learn more about what led to Heshimu's sudden decline, the zoo said.

Reticulated giraffes have an average lifespan of about 25 years in their natural habitat and a range of 20 to 27 years in human care, according to the zoo.

In October 2019. Kazi, a 2-year-old reticulated giraffe who was brought to Denver from Milwaukee, died after a medical procedure to castrate him.

Masika, a 23-year-old giraffe who was born at Denver Zoo, died in February 2019 after years of health issues. Dikembe, who was the oldest male giraffe in North America at 24 years old, passed away in October 2018.

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