Zoo mourns death of Grevy’s zebra, giraffe

Darasa and her new filly foal, in April 2014.
Darasa and her new filly foal, in April 2014. © Melissa Kittrell Cox

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida has lost two of its most popular animals with the deaths of Grevy’s Zebra mare Darasa, and giraffe Zawadi.

Darasa tends to her new foal. Photo: Dan Dembiec, supervisor of mammals
Darasa tending to her new foal in April. Photo: Dan Dembiec, supervisor of mammals

Darasa had been at the zoo only since 2012, and in April gave birth to a colt foal by Jacksonville’s Grevy’s stallion Mosi.

Darasa, who was 15, had been treated on Friday for possible colic, and was found dead the next morning before more treatment could be administered. The initial necropsy confirmed a severe twisting of her intestines.

The zoo said it was “optimistic for the health of the foal as she has been growing strong and adjusting well to her surroundings. She will receive additional attention and nurturing during this time from our keepers.”

Despite a valiant effort by zoo staff, Zawadi, their oldest giraffe at 19, was humanly euthanized on Monday night after collapsing while on exhibit. Both Zawadi and staff made attempts to get her to her feet, but the effort proved too great for the stability of her health.

“She has no serious medical history that would have led keepers or our veterinarians to anticipate an event like this. We have performed an initial necropsy, but it gave us no clear indication of what may have happened.”

Zawadi and Lester, pictured in February.
Zawadi and Lester, pictured in February.

Zawadi’s last calf, Lester, was born in February.

“Lester has already fit right in and has been accepted by the rest of the herd. The keepers will give him special attention to ensure that his diet and health are being properly maintained,” the zoo said.

“On behalf of all the keepers and staff who loved and worked with Zawadi and Darasa, we want to thank you for your outpouring of concern during this difficult time.”

The Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) is listed as endangered in the wild. They are native to the Horn of Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Kenya, although they have become regionally extinct in Somalia and Sudan. Their numbers are said to have declined by more than half over the past 20 years due to a range of factors including the reduction of available water sources, commercial hunting for their skins and disease.

Grevy’s zebra were named for Jules Grevy, a former president of France, to whom the first known specimen of the animal was sent in 1882. The largest of all wild equine species, they can be distinguished from other zebras – plains and mountain – by their longer legs, more narrow stripes, white, stripeless underbellies and large rounded ears.

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