gemina.jpgGemina, the beloved crooked-necked giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo, was euthanized on Jan 9. She was 21.

Gemina was born on July 16, 1986, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Her parents, Ginger and Black Jack, were both born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo.
Gemina was brought to the Santa Barbara Zoo when she was a year old. At three, she began to develop an odd “crick” in her neck. Zoo officials could not determine the cause of the oddity, even after taking x-rays, but they decided against performing exploratory surgery on her neck because the operation would have endangered her life.

Despite her unusual appearance, Gemina was a healthy giraffe and one of the most popular animals at the zoo. The 13-and-a-half-foot-tall leaf-eater even gave birth to a healthy calf in 1991; the baby giraffe later died of pneumonia.

Gemina was a Baringo (or Rothschild) giraffe, one of three species found in Uganda and western Kenya. The tallest animal on the ground, Baringo giraffes can grow to be 16 feet tall. Females tend to be slightly shorter than males, but both have brown, patterned coats and tufted horns on top of their heads.

Last summer, the zoo celebrated Gemina’s 21st birthday with a serenade by Zoo Campers, a “giraffe-sized” birthday card and a special treat of acacia. A video of the occasion was posted on YouTube. Gemina also topped a local radio station’s list of the “Seven Wonders of Santa Barbara.”

During the final two weeks of her life, Gemina’s health declined. When she stopped eating altogether, zoo officials knew old age had taken its toll on her, and it was time to put Gemina down. Her deterioration was not believed to be related to her neck condition, however results from a necropsy are pending.

“Though a few giraffes in captivity have been known to live into their late-twenties, reaching age 21 is considered an achievement,” zoo CEO and Director Rich Block stated. “She was a great animal ambassador, showing that differences can be accepted and even celebrated. She will be missed.”

[Photo by Van Swearingen. Used with permission.]