Brevard Zoo ‘heartbroken’ after giraffe matriarch’s death

Brevard Zoo is mourning the loss of its giraffe matriarch, a 21-year-old female that died this weekend after a medical procedure.

Johari had lived at the zoo since before the opening of its popular Expedition Africa area in 2003, the zoo said in a press release issued Monday.

“Our Zoo family is heartbroken.” said Andrea Hill, the zoo’s marketing and communications director. “Like the rest of our giraffes, she was very beloved by our community and a favorite sight on any visit for our guests. Johari was usually the first one up at the platform to eagerly take snacks from visitors and could be quite persistent about it. Her personality was one-of-a kind. She will be deeply missed by all of us.”

Annual care staff noticed last week that Johari had stopped eating and was lethargic. They also observed the giraffe had a loose tooth, so they started her on antibiotics and pain medication.

After several days of treatment, Johari failed to improve and wouldn’t eat. On Jan. 8, veterinary staff removed the loose tooth during a standing sedation procedure that lets a patient stand and have control of their body while allowing staff to perform procedures that a fully awake patient may not tolerate. Staff found no other dental problems. 

About 45 minutes into recovery, Johari became unsteady and went into cardiac arrest. The animal care team performed CPR, but could not revive her.

The zoo suspects a more serious underlying illness contributed to Johari’s death. At 21, the giraffe was considered geriatric for her species and had chronic kidney disease and rumen inflammation, both common diseases for older giraffes. University of Florida Pathology Services will conduct a full necropsy.

Chelsea Herman, the zoo’s animal curator, described Johari as a “calm, confident matriarch.” 

“She loved people watching and eating leaves from guests at the giraffe platform,” the zoo said. “Johari also enjoyed training sessions and could always be counted on to make her way up to the hoof training wall to be the first in line for a trim. Whenever there was something new in the environment like a door or gate, Johari would be the first one to confidently walk past it and show the rest of the giraffes there was nothing to fear.”

Two of Johari’s nine calves, Mapenzi and Floyd, remain at the zoo, while others have calves of their own at other zoos across the country.