The oldest reticulated giraffe in the United States has died. Patches, who was born at Zoo Knoxville in 1987, had lived there her entire life. A team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine humanely euthanized the beloved giraffe Thursday morning.
Zookeepers first noticed Patches was declining about a year ago. She’d begun displaying signs of stiffness, later diagnosed as arthritis. Her caretakers had started her on medication, but knew it was only a stopgap measure for the 31-year-old Patches. Giraffes in the wild generally live about 25 years.
Over the past few months, Patches’ health took a downturn, although she’d responded well to stronger medication and the recent warmer temperatures. She had begun favoring one foot, holding it up and taking weight off it.
Veterinarians had monitored her condition closely, to ensure Patches was kept as comfortable as possible.
Patches delighted tens of thousands of Zoo Knoxville visitors. She bore eight offspring and was the matriarch of the Zoo Knoxville herd, as well as an “iconic ambassador,” according to Zoo Knoxville President and CEO Lisa New. Patches introduced generations of visitors to “the beauty and gracefulness of” giraffes. “We will always be grateful to her for inspiring our community to care about the future of giraffes and to support the work we are doing to save them.”
Patches’ youngest daughter, Lucille, born in 2002, still lives at there.