The Zoo regrets to share that male giraffe, Bahatika, died unexpectedly this morning, March 22. “Baha” was being closely monitored by animal care staff over the recent weeks, as he had been experiencing a variety of age-related health issues. At 17 years old, his passing was unforeseen, and the staff is in mourning. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the median life expectancy of a male giraffe living in a zoo is 14 years old.
The Giraffe Building will be closed March 22 to give the zookeepers time to grieve Baha and give their necessary attention to the other giraffes in the herd. If further definitive medical details become available from necropsy (animal autopsy) results, the Zoo will share those with visitors.
Bahatika, was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs in June 2005 and has lived at the Milwaukee County Zoo since May 2006. He grew up at MCZ, and Zoo staff and guests watched him go from a gangly half-grown calf to a handsome bull over the past 17 years. Baha has been MCZ’s breeding bull for the past decade, fathering four male calves with giraffe Ziggy, and fathering three female calves with giraffe Marlee.
Baha was easy to recognize, being the largest of the giraffe herd and sporting the distinctive bumpy face of a mature male giraffe. He was friendly and outgoing with people, and many of our guests have fed Baha either at public feedings or behind-the-scenes tours. He was one of the founding members of the public giraffe feedings and was known to sometimes push the other giraffes out of the way so that he could get more treats and attention. Baha was always eager to interact with zookeepers and willingly participated in various types of training.
He was the first of the herd to allow veterinary staff to do a voluntary blood draw, and he also participated in hoof radiographs and other behaviors. In 2016-2017, Baha and his half-sister Rahna participated in a research study requiring both to wear giraffe movement trackers (similar to Fitbits) for one day per week, and Baha was a wonderful participant, presenting his leg on cue and allowing keepers to put on and remove his elastic tracker “bracelet.”
Zookeepers who worked directly with Baha over the years comment that they will miss his friendly face and presence in the Giraffe Barn. His memory lives on in his many offspring (seven calves at MCZ), three of whom are still here – Maya, Poppy, and Asante.
Update on Female Giraffe, Rahna
In the recent months, one of the herd’s female giraffes, Rahna, has been experiencing age-related health issues. Animal care staff have been continuously monitoring her for quality-of-life concerns. At 30 years old, Rahna is considered a geriatric animal, and her zookeepers tend to her health needs as best they can.
Rahna was born in 1992 at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the median life expectancy of a female giraffe living in a zoo is 20 years old.
Rahna arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in December 1994 and has lived here ever since (except for an eight-month visit to The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio from 2005-2006, when MCZ’s Giraffe Barn was undergoing renovation).
As her health status changes, the Zoo will update visitors with details.