Brevard Zoo’s Giraffe ‘Rafiki’ Passes Away at Age 25 After Being Euthanized for Age-Related Medical Issues
By Space Coast Daily // September 12, 2023
Expedition Africa opened in 2003
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Brevard Zoo announced on Tuesday that longtime Brevard Zoo resident giraffe ‘Rafiki’ passed away on Sunday after being euthanized.
“We’re heartbroken to share that Rafiki, one of our original five giraffes to be on habitat when Expedition Africa opened in 2003, was humanely euthanized on Sunday following ongoing age-related medical issues,” said a Brevard Zoo spokesperson.
Rafiki was 25 years old, and he spent most of his life delighting the Brevard Zoo community with his “larger than a giraffe” personality.
“Rafiki was the first animal to arrive at the Zoo for Africa, and he walked off the trailer ready to make his mark capturing the hearts of everyone he came across,” said Jon Brangan, Deputy Director of Brevard Zoo. “His magnetic personality never wavered, bringing joy to our staff, volunteers and thousands of visiting guests for nearly 20 years. He will be profoundly missed by our Zoo family and our entire community.”
At 25 years old, Rafiki’s age was exceptional for male giraffes, whose median lifespan is about 15.9 years old in Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities.
His long life with the zoo is a testament to the innovative care provided by the zoo’s veterinary staff and his keepers.
Rafiki made fewer public appearances at our giraffe feeding platform these last few years, largely due to his arthritis. Needless to say, he relished his one-on-one time with his keepers in the Africa barn when not on habitat. To keep him comfortable, the animal care team ensured Rafiki had regular hoof trims, chiropractic sessions, acupuncture, laser therapy, medication.
He recently received a pair of shoes for his feet last week. Recently he began losing his appetite and we started hospice care, which included an increase in pain medication to keep him comfortable and daily quality of life assessments.
“Unfortunately, Rafiki’s condition and quality of life worsened over the weekend. We decided that euthanasia was the most compassionate choice for him. Rafiki was surrounded by some of the animal care staff who have cared for him and loved him over the years.”
“Please keep our staff and volunteers in your thoughts during this time. While this is a difficult loss for our Zoo family, we recognize how much Rafiki meant to you and the rest of our community. On Tuesday, September 12, a memorial area will be available at the front entrance of the Zoo. Please share with us a special memory you have, bring your favorite photo of him or write us a message.”
His legacy will continue at the Zoo, where his 2-year-old son Mapenzi will remain to become our new breeding male giraffe. Rafiki sired more than 12 calves while at the Brevard Zoo with their giraffe matriarchs, Milenna and Johari. His legacy is felt throughout fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums facilities where his offspring reside – Rafiki even has a great grandcalf.
“There is no doubt his legacy will live on, in his descendants, in our keepers, in our guests and volunteers, and in the amazing care we provide to all our animals,” said Africa Platform area supervisor Alyssa Simon. “He will be greatly missed.”
Rafiki was one of Brevard Zoo’s first giraffe to participate in voluntary hoof trims and other care, contributing to how our Zoo cares for giraffes, Alyssa said. He helped their animal care team learn new skills to provide supportive care for older giraffes and preventative care for their younger ones.
Rafiki was well-known for peeking out to greet his keepers each morning, and even following around Africa keepers like Vanessa Kunz while in the Africa Barn.
“Walking into the barn will never feel the same without him there but I will always cherish all the memories I have with him,” Vanessa said.
Some of Vanessa’s favorite memories include giving him head scratches and treats – there’s not much Rafiki wouldn’t do for one more rye cracker! “I have had an amazing relationship with Rafiki, Vanessa said. “I felt he trusted me fully. I feel so blessed to have worked with him all these years.”