Florida Zoo Mourns Death of Beloved 25-Year-Old Giraffe: 'We're Heartbroken'

Rafiki was humanely euthanized on Sunday "following ongoing age-related medical issues," per the Brevard Zoo

<p>Brevard Zoo/Facebook</p> Rafiki the giraffe

Brevard Zoo/Facebook

Rafiki the giraffe

A zoo in Florida is mourning the loss of one of its visitors' favorite residents.

Rafiki — a 25-year-old giraffe — was humanely euthanized on Sunday "following ongoing age-related medical issues" at the Brevard Zoo, officials announced on the zoo's website Tuesday.

The animal, who had arthritis, was one of the original five giraffes to be on habitat when the zoo's 'Expedition Africa' opened in 2003.

"Rafiki was the first animal to arrive at the Zoo for Africa, and he walked off the trailer ready to make his mark capturing the hearts of everyone he came across," said Jon Brangan, the deputy director of Brevard Zoo, in a statement. "His magnetic personality never wavered, bringing joy to our staff, volunteers, and thousands of visiting guests for nearly 20 years. He will be profoundly missed by our Zoo family and our entire community."

The zoo also shared how they had recently started hospice care for Rafiki and increased his pain medication, but his "condition and quality of life worsened over the weekend."

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“We decided that euthanasia was the most compassionate choice for him,” the blog post on the zoo’s website read. “Rafiki was surrounded by some of the animal care staff who have cared for him and loved him over the years.”

Adding that the zoo was “heartbroken” to lose Rafiki, the post continued, “Please keep our staff and volunteers in your thoughts during this time. While this is a difficult loss for our Zoo family, we recognize how much Rafiki meant to you and the rest of our community."

"On Tuesday, September 12, a memorial area will be available at the front entrance of the Zoo. Please share with us a special memory you have, bring your favorite photo of him or write us a message.”

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Zoo officials described Rafiki's age as "exceptional," with the median lifespan for male giraffes being about 15.9 years.

"His long life with us is a testament to the innovative care provided by our veterinary staff and his keepers," the post read.

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The zoo added that Rafiki's legacy will live on through his 2-year-old son Mapenzi, who will become the zoo's new breeding male giraffe.

"There is no doubt his legacy will live on, in his descendants, in our keepers, in our guests and volunteers, and in the amazing care we provide to all our animals," said Africa Platform area supervisor Alyssa Simon in a statement. "He will be greatly missed."

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