Zoo Knoxville’s beloved giraffe Patches — who was the oldest reticulated giraffe in the United States — has been humanely euthanized due to declining health caused by advanced age, the Zoo announced Thursday.
About a year ago, Patches began displaying signs of stiffness and was started on medication to address her symptoms, the Zoo said in a news release.
Radiographs confirmed a diagnosis of arthritis. Her symptoms became more acute over the last few months and in recent weeks her physical health began to show a notable decline, the Zoo said.
Patches’ caretakers and the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee determined her quality of life had reached a low point and made the decision to humanely euthanize her Thursday morning.
At 31 years of age, Patches was the oldest reticulated giraffe in the country, the Zoo said. With the average giraffe life expectancy of a giraffe at 25 years, Patches’ longevity can be attributed to the care she has received from zoo staff and the veterinary team at UT, the Zoo news release said.
Patches was born in Knoxville on June 9, 1987, and had eight offspring. Her last daughter, Lucille, was born in 2002 and is still housed at Zoo Knoxville with male Jumbe and female Frances.
With wild populations of giraffes endangered and declining, Patches helped ensure there will be a healthy and genetically viable population of giraffes in human care. The herd at Zoo Knoxville is part of a larger collaborative effort of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and partners in Africa working to save giraffes from extinction, the Zoo said..
“Over her lifetime, Patches was an iconic ambassador,” said Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville President and CEO. “She made it possible for millions of visitors who will never have the opportunity to travel to Africa to experience the beauty and gracefulness of her species. We will always be grateful to her for inspiring our community to care about the future of giraffes and to support the work we are doing to save them.”