Audrey the giraffe | Credit: Courtesy

Audrey, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s elderly female Masai giraffe, died unexpectedly overnight, the zoo announced on Monday.

“She had appeared to be in good health up until yesterday, when she was presenting vague symptoms of not being quite right and her keepers were monitoring her closely,” said Jennifer Zacharias, the zoo’s spokesperson. Though her death was “unexpected,” Zacharias said, “Audrey was considered a geriatric giraffe” at her age of 16 years old. The cause of Audrey’s death is currently unknown, though more information will become available following a necropsy (animal autopsy) and pathology report, Zacharias said.

“Audrey was not just a magnificent presence at the Santa Barbara Zoo; she was a nurturing and devoted mother to her calves, a mentor to the younger members of the herd, and an excellent ambassador for her counterparts in the wild who are endangered,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of animal care. “Additionally, Audrey’s contribution to the Masai giraffe population has been invaluable, helping to ensure the genetic health and sustainability of this endangered species.”

Born at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2008, Audrey came to the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2010 to breed with Michael (who died last year, also at the age of 16). In total, Audrey had four living calves with Michael, and each of the four went on to have calves of their own, “resulting in seven grand-calves at zoos across the country,” Zacharias noted.

The remaining members of zoo’s Masai herd are Adia, Theo, Raymie, and Malia, who was born in November 2023, and are among more than 120 Masai giraffes that live at 28 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

“We will miss Audrey deeply,” Barnes said, “and we are grateful for the joy and wonder she brought to all who had the privilege of knowing her.”

Audrey the giraffe | Credit: Courtesy

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