COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs announced that Tamu, their 32-year-old female reticulated giraffe, died Thursday afternoon. She was the oldest giraffe in North America at the time of her passing.
“Since coming to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in April 2003, she made strong and countless emotional connections with guests and staff alike, who often affectionately referred to her as ‘Moose’ or ‘Grandma,’” a statement from the zoo said.
“She was the nicest giraffe on the planet,” said Jason Bredahl, animal care manager. “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.”
Tamu was easy to recognize because of her dark, bushy eyebrows. She would have turned 33 on Dec. 28.
“She was known for taking care of calves because she was so gentle,” said Amy Schilz, senior giraffe keeper. “I remember when we put up new shade structures in the yard and the calves hadn’t learned to use them as shelters when it rained. Tamu would go out into the rain to stand over the calves to protect them.”
Although Tamu was considered geriatric, her decline happened extremely quickly and unexpectedly. Staff started to notice behavior changes in Tamu around 11 a.m. and said goodbye to her around 1 p.m., when she passed peacefully and naturally surrounded by keepers and vet staff who cared for her deeply, the statement said.
“She will be missed so much,” Schilz said. “She was really, really smart. Just yesterday, she was participating in training for hoof care. She had a great heart.”