By Ben Warwick

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo announced Thursday that Tamu, a 32-year-old reticulated giraffe, died at the zoo on Thursday. She was the oldest giraffe in North America.

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“She was the nicest giraffe on the planet,” animal care manager Jason Bredahl said. “She would sit under the lettuce hut and eat lettuce all day long and made millions of people’s days. If you have a giraffe selfie on your phone, there’s a good chance it’s with Tamu. She was a guest favorite, for sure.”

She was just 15 days shy of her 33rd birthday.

(credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

Tamu provided maternal comfort for Penny, the baby giraffe born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo earlier this year. Penny had to be put down because of health complications.

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“Tamu had a huge heart and brought Penny a lot of comfort in Penny’s final days,” Amy Schilz, senior giraffe keeper said. “We all knew that when Penny’s mom was a little too rough for Penny, that Tamu could step in and provide that giraffe-to-giraffe care.”

Tamu left a legacy of six calves, 29 grandcalves, nine great-grandcalves, and one great-great-grandcalf.

She passed peacefully and naturally around 1:00 p.m. Thursday. She was surrounded by keepers and vet staff who cared for her deeply.

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Ben Warwick is an Assignment Editor at CBS4 and is a native Coloradan. He loves sports, particularly baseball, and telling stories from around the state. Connect with him on Twitter @BenCBS4.