LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Zoo is sad to announce the loss of Malaika, a 23-year-old female Masai giraffe who was beloved by zoo staff and the Louisville community.
Malaika’s pain was advancing in her last several months from musculoskeletal problems that had led to stiffness, lameness and difficulty moving. While she was being managed with joint support products, pain medications and given soft surfaces to stand on, her pain could no longer be controlled and a welfare assessment by staff showed a deterioration in her quality of life with no signs of improvement. Malaika’s keepers, in coordination with the zoo’s veterinarians, made the tough decision to humanely euthanize her earlier Wednesday.
“Malaika had a good, long life and was able to thrive much longer because of the excellent care our staff provides,” said John Walczak, director of the zoo. “The remnant wild is a tough place, and she would have never lived as long under the constant pressures of that environment. We hope the community will join us in remembering Malaika and the joy she brought to so many people.”
Malaika was originally born at the Los Angeles Zoo and arrived at the Louisville Zoo in 1997, where she gave birth to five bull calves between 2000-12.
“Our top priority is the comfort level of the animals,” said Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, zoo senior veterinarian. “They are like family to so many of us, and we always do everything we can to ensure their well-being. This was a very tough decision to make, but when looking at Malaika’s deteriorating health, we knew it was the right decision to make.”
Malaika shared the exhibit with two other Masai giraffes – 4-year-old male giraffe Baridi and 3-year-old female giraffe Kianga. Masai giraffes are the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammals on Earth, reaching between 15-18 feet and 1,800 to 2,600 pounds. Masai giraffes are native to East Africa, but populations have suffered over the years as a result of habitat loss, illegal hunting and disease. They are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with less than 100,000 giraffes left throughout Africa.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Mean Life Expectancy for female giraffes is 20.2 years.