Gemina, the Santa Barbara Zoo giraffe known around the world for its crooked neck, has died. The giraffe, who was 21 years old, was euthanized on Wednesday, January 9 after zookeepers noticed a loss of appetite. Her crooked neck, which made her one of the top attractions for the zoo and one its global claims to fame, is not believed to be related to her illness and death.
According to zoo director of animal programs Alan Varsik, Gemina’s “demise is consistent with the challenges of old age.” Echoed zoo director Rich Block in the same official statement, “Though a few giraffes in captivity have been known to live into their late-twenties, reaching age 21 is considered an achievement.”
There were plenty of urban legends surrounding Gemina’s crooked neck, from the scandalous charges that she was once dropped on her head by the wranglers who took her from the African plains to the more biological rumors that she came out of the womb that way. But the true story, according to the Santa Barbara Zoo, is that the giraffe was actually born normally at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1986 and started developing the kink in her neck after she came to Santa Barbara in 1987. It was never thought to be causing any pain, explains the zoo’s website, and is perhaps related to an “unstable joint” caused by “benign bony growth.”
Gemina’s life ended with a bang, however. For her 21st birthday, she was serenaded by children, given a large card, and presented with some acacia, the African savannah tree preferred by distinguishing giraffes. “She was a great animal ambassador,” said Block, “showing that differences can be accepted and even celebrated. She will be missed.”
A necropsy is being performed to determine the cause of her illness, but the results won’t be known for weeks. In the meantime, the zoo’s website sbzoo.org is showing a humorous video of Gemina and has created a spot for fans to leave remembrances.