RIP: Puzzles, Beloved Local Giraffe, Dead At 27

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BY SAM WOOD OF THE INQUIRER Puzzles, 27, had been suffering from failing health due to her advanced age. The female reticulated giraffe [NOT pictured] was one of the oldest living in the United States. Puzzles was born in 1981 at a Children’s Zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Three years later, she joined the Philadelphia Zoo. She was the mother of seven calves, all of which were adopted by zoos across the country.Puzzles is survived by giraffes Stella, 7, and Twigga, 28, her enclosure mates in the Zoo’s “African Plains” exhibit. Zoo staff have been closely monitoring Twigga, who has been receiving treatment for a variety of symptoms linked to her advanced age. Giraffes typically live 20 years.

According to the zoo’s website, most giraffes don’t live to their maximum age, though animals in captivity usually outlive their wild cousins. Like humans, females generally live longer than males. The Zoo’s veterinary staff and Puzzles’ keepers met early this month to discuss the giraffe’s prospects for a happy life. In the end, they agreed euthanasia was the best medical option to alleviate her pain and suffering. Zoo staff and volunteers had the chance to visit Puzzles and pay their respects to the aging ungulate. “We let as many people know in advance so they would have the opportunity to say goodbye,” said Andrew Baker, the Zoo’s vice president of animal programs.

giraffe-head.jpgShe died at home. On March 21, a keeper led Puzzles to her stall in the Zoo’s giraffe barn. A veterinarian gave her a shot of powerful anesthetic that put her to sleep. A high dose of a barbituate stopped her heart, said Keith Hinshaw, the Zoo’s director of animal health. Afterwards, workers folded her body, slid it out the stall, and lifted it onto a large truck. The giraffe, though towering, was surprisingly light and only weighed about 1,000 pounds, Hinshaw said. Zoo workers covered Puzzles with a large tarp. The makeshift hearse drove her 40 miles to Kennett Square, where doctors conducted a necropsy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center. Results are pending, Hinshaw said. Her body will be cremated or buried. Zoo officials did not have plans for a memorial. It is unclear where Puzzles would be buried. MORE

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