Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens mourns the loss of beloved giraffe

SANFORD, Fla., September 29, 2018 – The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is saddened to announce the loss of their resident male Baringo, commonly known as Rothschild, giraffe, Emba. He was born October 23, 1995 at the Oklahoma City Zoo and resided at several other facilities before arriving at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens from White Oak for the opening of their new giraffe habitat in February 2014.

Emba was 22-years-old. The median life expectancy for giraffe is 20 to 25 years.

On April 7, 2018, the Zoo staff found Emba lying on his side—an abnormal position for a giraffe. Animal care and veterinary teams immediately responded to the habitat to assess his condition. The decision was made to separate Emba from the Zoo’s other two male giraffe for safety and to assist with behavioral observation and administration of medication. Initially, the cause of condition was unknown and staff consulted with veterinarians at several AZA accredited zoos who have worked with similar geriatric giraffe cases.

Since the initial episode in early April, the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams have worked together to prescribe and administer care—including pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as rehabilitative exercises. Following a diagnostic evaluation, it was determined Emba was likely suffering from a degenerative spinal condition.

During the week of August 26, 2018, Emba relapsed and appeared far less stable when walking and turning. The veterinary care team recommended a treatment plan of medication and stall rest in hopes of again seeing improvement.

Despite these efforts and continuous monitoring, Emba’s status continued to deteriorate. Due to his advanced age and following a series of quality-of-life assessments, veterinary and animal care teams made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him.

The Zoo understands many guests have a deep connection with the giraffes. Emba was known and loved by many—including staff, volunteers, guests and social-media fans. Emba served as a wonderful ambassador to his species. Central Florida Zoo staff and volunteers were able to educate guests daily about the plight of giraffe in their natural habitat while introducing them to the Zoo’s resident giraffes. The feeding experience is a one-on-one connection that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many guests to meet these animals face to face. Emba will certainly be missed.

Throughout recent generations, giraffe populations have decreased by as much as 40%. Scientists and conservationists are calling this decline a “silent extinction.” Though giraffe are one of the most recognizable animals in the world, many do not realize the threats they face—including poaching, habitat fragmentation and human-related cases.

The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for giraffe, primarily serving as a home for bachelor males. The Zoo also celebrated World Giraffe Day annually to help raise awareness for the giraffes’ counterparts in Africa.

The giraffe feeding experience is still available, though guests are asked to be patient as the Zoo’s remaining giraffes, Gage and Rafiki, adjust to one less member of their bachelor tower.

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is home to over 350 animals in Sanford, Florida. As a not-for-profit organization, it is a leader in conservation, providing experiences that excite and inspire actions on behalf of wildlife. More information is available at www.centralfloridazoo.org.

Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation is a cutting-edge conservation facility dedicated to propagation of and reintroduction of the federally protected eastern indigo snake. More information is available at www.centralfloridazoo.org/about-the-zoo/ocic.

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