COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) — The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo announced Friday that they had made the difficult decision to euthanize one of their friendliest and most recognizable giraffes — Uzuri. This comes just a month after the zoo had to euthanize Penny, a giraffe calf they had worked tirelessly to save.
“When you care for nearly 1,000 animals, there are many great days and a few really hard days,” Bob Chastain, president & CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo said in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday. “Today was a hard day.”
“It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Uzuri,” Chastain stated.
Uzuri was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001, officials said.
She was well-known by guests and giraffe-cam watchers due to her characteristic dangling tongue — and she was always eager to take lettuce snacks from guests, officials said.
Zoo officials said Uzuri was often the first one in the herd to greet the keepers and was a favorite of staff.
“She always wanted to be close to our faces, in a gentle way, breathing on us,” Diana Cartier, a giraffe animal keeper, stated. “Obviously she couldn’t talk to us and we couldn’t talk to her, but it always felt like she was trying to reassure and relax us in the morning or when we were doing training with her.”
Uzuri was also described as the herd’s “silent leader” and was known for reassuring the other giraffes, as well.
“She was often the first one to shift outside if giraffe were nervous or if something was different. She would let them know it was OK to come out,” Cartier stated.
Zoo officials said Uzuri had struggled with various medical challenges throughout her life.
“Most recently, she began to be very unstable on her back feet with suspected musculoskeletal issues,” officials stated. The said her progress had been up and down over recent weeks.
“The veterinary team was managing her with pain medications, anti-inflamatories and laser therapy, and expected that with these treatments, they would see improvement over time. But unfortunately, Uzuri once again began to get worse,” officials stated.
“Because of her declining condition, the team made the difficult, but humane, decision to euthanize her this morning.”
“She was a very special girl,” zoo officials wrote. “We will all miss her dearly.”