Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium sadly announces the death of Dottie, a female Giraffe, yesterday, May 31, 2022. She was 22 years, 8 months, and 19 days old. Dottie was the oldest giraffe currently living at Omaha’s Zoo & Aquarium.
Dottie was born on Sept. 13, 1999, and has been a resident of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium her whole life. She is the mother to three calves. Dottie’s daughter, LoLo, lives in the African Grasslands habitat at the Zoo. Her daughter, Zoe, was moved to the Tulsa Zoo, and son, Malcom, was moved to Zoo Miami as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan.
“After spending her entire life in Omaha, Dottie was seen by millions of Zoo visitors and was an ambassador for conservation,” said Dan Cassidy, Vice President of Animal Management for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “She will be greatly missed by our Zoo family and the Omaha community. Dottie lives on through her offspring, positively impacting the sustainability of her species in zoos.” Her keepers describe Dottie as an excellent matriarch to the Giraffe herd, sweet yet strong, with a love of bananas.
The average life expectancy for a female giraffe is about 20.2 years and for a male is about 14.7 years. According to Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), the oldest, currently living giraffe in North America is 33 years old and lives at Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Dottie fell yesterday morning and was found lying down on her side in the giraffe barn by the keeper staff, unable to rise. “Getting up from laying down is a concerted massive effort even for a young healthy giraffe due to their large body mass,” explained Dr. Laura Kleinschmidt, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Associate Veterinarian for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Vet staff responded immediately. As Dottie was now unable to stand on her own due to chronic medical issues, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize her at that time by the Zoo’s animal health team, with input from the keeper staff who worked with her daily.
Dottie had been under close monitoring and medical care for osteoarthritis resulting in overgrown hooves since 2019. Osteoarthritis commonly develops in elderly animals, as a degenerative change as they age. In 2021 and early 2022, Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium collaborated with hoof trimming specialists who were able to help Zoo staff trim Dottie’s hooves, allowing her to walk comfortably for as long as possible.
“Dottie is a testament to the excellent quality care provided by both her animal care staff and the veterinary team at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, from animal care staff training with her to allow oral medications to veterinary care staff safely anesthetizing her for hoof trims with visiting expert consultants,” said Dr. Kleinschmidt. “Dottie was able to share another three years of her life with her family group, including recently becoming an ‘auntie’ to new giraffe calf Arthur. Dottie was well loved by all that had the chance to know her.”
Sadly, in the wild, giraffe numbers have been decreasing rapidly. Dottie was a Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata), one of four giraffe species, that are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List with about 11,000 in the wild. The Zoo has supported giraffe conservation in Africa by partnering with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the only non-governmental organization (NGO) in the world that concentrates their efforts solely on giraffe in the wild across Africa.