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Roger Williams Park Zoo Mourns the Death of Giraffe Jaffa

(Updated February 6)

PROVIDENCE, RI (Oct. 3, 2023) With enormous sadness, Roger Williams Park Zoo announces the death of Jaffa Prince, their 13-year-old Masai giraffe.

Jaffa underwent a procedure in June to care for his chronic hoof issues. At that time, the Zoo brought in veterinary staff from the Columbus Zoo, Omaha Zoo, Zoo New England, and Tufts University veterinary anesthesia department, along with farrier Steve Foxworth of the Zoo Hoofstock Trim Program.

He had been recovering well from the initial foot trim procedure but experienced a setback resulting in the need for additional medical evaluation under anesthesia. The Zoo brought back the original team of specialists to give Jaffa the best chance at recovery.

The vet and farrier teams found multiple areas of infection in his front feet and treated him with antibiotics and custom-made shoes. His overall degenerative arthritis was treated with stem cells, a new, cutting-edge therapy available for some animals.

According to Dr. Kim Wojick, the Zoo’s senior veterinarian, “Jaffa recovered well from his procedure. We had high hopes for his continued improvement, but 72 hours later suffered a fall that resulted in his inability to stand; our animal care and veterinary teams made the difficult decision to euthanize him humanely.

Jaffa Prince was born at the Zoo on July 9, 2010, to Sukari (mom) and Griffin (dad) and spent his entire life at Roger Williams Park Zoo, where he touched the hearts of guests, staff, and volunteers. He was a large giraffe at 18 feet tall and 2,800 pounds, which likely contributed to his hoof problems.

“Jaffa was the very definition of tall, dark and handsome. He captivated guests who were in awe of his grand stature. Jaffa was stubborn and sweet, smart and aloof. He loved knotweed and mulberry; crackling oat bran was his favorite special treat. Curious and expressive, keepers could often tell when Jaffa figured something new out. This same expressive face was periodically used to judge new staff, typically followed by a snort and flared nostrils. Gentle and patient, Jaffa embodied all the best qualities of a giraffe, said Jenny Theuman, animal care manager at the Zoo.

“His presence will be felt across the Zoo by every department that has supported the animal care staff and Jaffa through his recent medical procedures. The loss of Jaffa Prince marks the end of an era. The biggest boy left our world a little smaller today.”

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). Nearly half of the giraffes born in the wild do not make it to their first birthday.

The Zoo family will hold a very special place in its heart for Jaffa and he will be deeply missed. We encourage people to share photos and fond memories of Jaffa on the Zoo’s Facebook page –; or the Zoo’s Instagram page – so that his keepers may see your remembrances and kind words.

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.

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