During his 11 years at Santa Barbara, Michael was well-known among zoo visitors at the giraffe feeding deck. | Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo announced today that its beloved elderly male Masai giraffe, Michael, was humanely euthanized at age 16 following a long battle with arthritis. Michael — who was considered as the “most genetically valuable” male of his species in the American Zoo & Aquarium Association’s Species Survival Plan — fathered 11 calves over the past decade at the zoo.

“For over 11 years, Michael was Santa Barbara’s tallest resident with an ocean view,” said Santa Barbara Zoo President and CEO Rich Block. 

Michael arrived in Santa Barbara in 2011 from Parc Safari in Quebec, Canada, and quickly became one of the Zoo’s most beloved animals. 

“He was a wonderful ambassador for giraffes and all animals,” Block said. “Michael’s close encounters with guests touched countless lives and created lifelong memories. He brought a lot of heart to our community.” 

During his 11 years in Santa Barbara, Michael’s large personality matched his height, and he was well-known among zoo visitors at the giraffe feeding deck, to which he would happily rush over anytime he saw a person with lettuce in the area.

“Michael was a truly iconic giraffe who will be deeply missed by everyone in our Zoo community,” wrote spokesperson Jennifer Zacharias. “The Zoo would like to extend a special thank-you to all of the keepers and veterinary staff who devoted so much care, time, and effort over the years to give Michael a long and healthy life.”

At age 16, Michael was considered a “geriatric” giraffe, and over the past year, keepers and veterinary staff had been closely monitoring the degenerative joint disease, including consistent hoof maintenance and the addition of soft surfaces into the giraffe habitat to cushion his aging joints. 


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