New Masai giraffe Theo | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara’s profile just got taller with the arrival of a giraffe named Theo, who joins Adia, Audrey, and Raymie in the Masai giraffe enclosure at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The 3-year-old male quadruped stands about 12 feet tall and came cross-country about three weeks ago from the zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Theo is part of a national Species Survival Plan that works to support the genetic diversity of Masai giraffes, which are native to Tanzania and southern Kenya but are considered endangered from hunters and other human interference in their habitat. The Santa Barbara Zoo was home to Michael, a Masai giraffe who had fathered 11 calves and was one of the most “genetically valuable” giraffes in the zoo system. After arthritis affected him more and more adversely, the zoo made the hard decision to euthanize him at age 16 this past February. Among the calves he fathered was Raymie by mother Adia.

Theo’s keepers in Santa Barbara had met him and his handlers in Cincinnati before Theo was moved to Santa Barbara to learn of training and behaviors, and to establish some continuity. As he passes a 30-day quarantine period, he will be more visible to visitors to the giraffe paddock. “Theo” derives from the Greek name “Theodore,” which means “divine gift.”

“We are delighted to welcome Theo to our zoo,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, who heads Animal Care & Health at the zoo. “His presence will allow us to continue the important species survival work for this endangered population. Our wonderful animal care team is enjoying getting to know Theo, and we can’t wait for you all to meet him too!”


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