Beloved Giraffe Twiga dies aged 23

12 February 2020

Melbourne Zoo’s beloved giraffe Twiga died this morning aged 23.

Vets reluctantly made the heart-breaking decision to euthanase the great-great grandmother on compassionate grounds because of age-related medical problems that were causing her to suffer.

Melbourne Zoo’s Head of Veterinary Services Dr Michael Lynch said that Twiga’s teeth had become very worn down, which is common in old giraffes.

“It made it very difficult and painful for her to eat,” Dr Lynch explained. “Twiga’s were so worn they had exposed the roots which caused bone infection and chronic mouth pain. She was such a sweet old girl and we really wanted to make her better, but sometimes you just can’t.”

Twiga was born in a zoo in the Netherlands and arrived in Melbourne in March 1997 at 11 months old. She was hugely popular with Zoo members and visitors, and lived with partner Mukulu until his death aged 23 in November 2018. The two were an incredibly successful breeding pair, producing four calves.

Carnivores and Ungulates Keeper Georgie Greig paid tribute to the Zoo favourite.

“She was just the best giraffe ever,” Miss Greig said. “She was really gentle and I know it sounds strange to say it, but she was a kind animal. She loved treats of celery and carrots, but she would never snatch them from you. And she ate salad incredibly gracefully.”

Miss Greig added that another of Twiga’s favourite things was to scratch her legs against piles of sticks left out for her for that purpose. “She enjoyed it as if she was getting a massage,” the keeper explained.

Last November the gentle giant – who was just over four metres tall – made headlines after she learned to hold her head steady beside an X-ray machine, allowing vets to get detailed scans on the condition of her mouth. Having reached a ripe old age for a Rothschild’s giraffe, her health had been slowly deteriorating in recent years and keepers and vets have been monitoring her closely for some time.

Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered species in Africa. There are only around 1,600 of the creatures left in the wild in Kenya and Uganda, according to the most recent study by Kenya’s Giraffe Research and Conservation Trust.

“Twiga really did her bit to increase her species’ gene pool – she was the great-grandmother of at least ten giraffes,” Ms Greig added. “She was a wonderful mother, and she taught all of us here a lot.”