Roger Williams Park Zoo Mourns Death of 28-Year-Old Giraffe

Roger Williams Park Zoo Mourns Death of 28-Year-Old Giraffe

Thursday, December 30, 2021
With great sadness, Roger Williams Park Zoo announces the death of Sukari, their beloved 28-year-old Masai giraffe.

The Zoo staff worked diligently to care for Sukari; her comfort was the utmost priority while treating her for significant arthritis and age-related ailments. 

The husbandry, animal care and veterinary teams monitored her closely in recent days. Given her advanced age and concern for the impact on quality of life, the teams made the extremely difficult decision to humanely euthanize Sukari on Wednesday, December 29.

She had long-standing arthritis issues that had been well-managed with different forms of care over the past few years. “What we were doing was no longer keeping her comfortable. In addition to exploring therapeutic options, we also made behavioral and environmental changes, but she didn’t respond as we had hoped. Sukari reached an age that is rare in the giraffe world, and we are glad that she was able to spend her senior years here contentedly until now,” said Jessica Lovstad, a clinical veterinarian at the Zoo.

Nearly half of the giraffe born in the wild do not make it to their first birthday; female giraffes in captivity average a 20-year lifespan. Sukari, who would have turned 29 in February 2022, was one of the oldest Masai giraffes in human care in North America, a testament to the quality of care provided by the dedicated staff that took care of her.

Sukari was born at Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens on February 27, 1993 and arrived at the RWPZoo at just nine months old. She was the mother of Jaffa, our male giraffe, a matriarch to our humble herd, and a favorite among guests, staff and volunteers. 

Giraffe populations have declined drastically over the past 30 years. There are only about 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild, and they are considered endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

“Of all the stories about Sukari we could share, one will forever leave a lasting impression,” said Rachel McClung, zookeeper and one of Sukari’s caretakers. “A young boy and his father would visit the giraffe every Saturday. After learning how much he loved the giraffe and some of the challenges he faced, we arranged for our young friend to meet Sukari. Although tentative at first, Sukari’s sweet and calm demeanor eased his fears and resulted in happy tears from all. These two new best friends were lost in their happy moment together.”

AZA-accredited institutions such as the Roger Williams Park Zoo have been mobilizing resources to increase awareness of giraffe conservation and conduct or support field conservation initiatives for giraffes.

Roger Williams Park Zoo is Rhode Island’s number one outdoor family and tourist attraction, and a leader in conservation efforts undertaken by a zoo of its size. As leaders in conservation and animal care – we create engaging experiences that empower guests to join us in conserving wildlife and wild places.  Roger Williams Park Zoo is supported and managed by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and is owned by the City of Providence.