Zookeepers and staff mourn for Casper

Jackson Zoo vet team and keepers are deeply saddened to announce the passing of “Casper,” our nearly 14-year-old Reticulated giraffe this past Sunday. Casper had been greeting guests as they come in the gates since he arrived in November of 2004, and had become an icon of the park. He was going to be 14 today, October 31st.
He started behaving like he wasn’t quite feeling well about a week ago, and the animal care team started taking steps to discover and resolve his issues. Turned out he had developed bladder stones, which had caused blockage and was making him ill. They changed is diet and tried different types of medicines, and it seemed to be making a difference. He was out in the yard and playing with adopted brother, “Knox,” as the weekend began. However, he took a very quick downward turn Saturday night, and they made the decision to perform surgery. Because of their size and build (like that long neck), surgery is always a last resort, as it can be even more dangerous than an illness. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful, and our sweet boy passed away behind the scenes with his keepers and his vet team by his side.
He and his adopted brother, K. D. Knox, had also recently been the focus of a fundraiser for giraffe conservation, leading up to his birthday on October 31st. Guests dropped change into water jugs in order for the two boys to sponsor two wild girl giraffes in Namibia, Africa, through the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Almost $200 was raised in through visitors and members, and young Tatum McLaughlin adopter the two brothers and donated another $70 of her birthday money to the cause. The two GCF “adoptions” will now go forward in honor of Knox, and in memory of Casper.

Unfortunately, this loss closely follows the death of the female Amur leopard, “Katya,” on October 15th. She was nearly 17 years old, which is considered elderly in zoo-born leopards, when she started “letting her keepers know” that she was ready. When her activities indicated that her quality of life was no longer comfortable, the animal care staff made the difficult decision to euthanize her. It was hard to tell how old she was by looking at her, and Vet Tech Donna Todd said, “She was beautiful up to the very end.”

The keepers have assured staff that Reticulated giraffe Knox and male Amur leopard Nicolai know that their partners are gone, but are responding normally in daily activities. Along with the wonder and joy of seeing and working with these amazing animals every day is the grief that comes with their loss.
Executive Director Beth Poff explains, “Life and death, occurring for all living things, is part of the day to day experience in any zoo.  Every animal’s passing is felt, especially with the ones that our guests see as long time “celebrities.”  It will be sad to no longer greet Casper as we enter the zoo, he will be missed.
If you would like to adopt either Knox or Nic in memorial of Casper or Katya, sponsorship can be acquired online at http://www.jacksonzoo.org/support.

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