The Milwaukee County Zoo is sad to announce that longtime resident, female reticulated giraffe Rahna, was humanely euthanized March 29 after experiencing age-related health issues. Animal care staff had been continuously monitoring her for quality-of-life concerns. Rahna was 30 years old and 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.
The Giraffe Building will be closed March 29 to give the zookeepers time to grieve and give their necessary attention to the other giraffes in the herd.
Rahna arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in December 1994 and 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).
She was well-known as the white or “blond” giraffe, as her face was almost completely white and she was noticeably light-colored compared to the rest of the herd. Guests would often ask if she was albino or if her color was related to her age — but giraffes’ coat colors are genetic, and Rahna came from a light-colored family line.
Rahna gave birth to one calf, a female named Skye who is now almost 25 years old and lives at the Sacramento Zoo in California. Rahna didn’t take well to motherhood, and Skye was hand-raised by zookeepers and socialized by one of the other female giraffe residents at the time, herdmate Malinde. Rahna eventually settled into the patient “auntie” role to MCZ’s more recent calves, including the offspring of her half-brother Bahatika (Baha), who arrived from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2006 and unexpectedly passed away last week.
Zookeepers share that Rahna was a smart and observant giraffe, participating in training for routine animal care activities throughout her life. She was the first member of the herd to have radiographs taken on her front feet and also the first to allow her front hooves to be examined and cleaned with a hoof pick.
She could also be stubborn and opinionated about when and how she would present certain behaviors. For example, Rahna had her first voluntary blood draw this January after a couple years of refusing to participate in blood draw training. She taught the animal care team to never give up hope that she might one day participate.
Rahna was always friendly with staff, and in her later years became a favorite of many of the animal care interns. Her zookeepers comment that she definitely had “personality,” and watching her grow from a smart and “sassy” young giraffe into a sweet and mellow senior has been an honor and a pleasure.
This is another incredibly difficult loss for the Zoo’s animal care team, and Rahna will be remembered with much love and affection.
You can honor Rahna’s and Baha’s memory and support their species by visiting The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).