Nashville Zoo mourns loss of 16-year-old giraffe

Local News

Congo (Source: Nashville Zoo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Nashville Zoo is mourning the loss of one of its giraffes.

The Zoo says Congo, a 16-year-old male Masai giraffe, died Thursday due to complications from a medical procedure.

“Congo had been with us since we opened the giraffe exhibit in 2006,” said Nashville Zoo President and CEO Rick Schwartz. “Throughout his long life, Congo has always been curious about our guests. He’s enthralled thousands who have had that chance to meet him up close during our behind-the-scenes tours. He’s sired five calves which is a great accomplishment for his species. Everyone here at the Zoo, especially our dedicated hoofstock keepers who have cared for him all these years, is devastated to lose such a wonderful animal.”

For many years, the Zoo’s hoofstock and veterinary teams gave Congo special care and treatment for a hoof abnormality he had. Over time, the condition caused discomfort with Congo’s mobility. Despite various treatments, Congo’s condition continued to deteriorate.

In October, the Zoo says it made the decision to sedate Congo to try and apply a more aggressive treatment. Experts were brought in to help with a procedure that successfully relieved Congo from his pain and improved his mobility.

However, over the past few months Congo began showing signs of pain in his hoof and his mobility decreased. On Thursday, a similar procedure to the one in October was performed.

Unfortunately, Congo died due to complications from anesthesia.

“Congo received outstanding care which is what we would do for all of our animals,” said Dr. Heather Schwartz, Director of Veterinary Services at the Zoo. “Sometimes their needs are beyond our abilities. Facing that is the hardest part of our job.” 

Congo came to the Nashville Zoo in 2006 from the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. At birth, he was rejected by his mother and had to be hand-raised by keepers, making him extremely comfortable around people. The Zoo’s hoofstock team would often take guests to the back area of the giraffe habitat to meet and feed Congo his favorite snacks, like romaine lettuce and honey locust seed pods.

Congo even had the honor of predicting the winner of the Super Bowl since 2013; he would pick the winner by picking between two logos his keepers would show him.

The Zoo says Masai giraffes are one of nine subspecies of giraffe known for their oak-leaved-shaped spot pattern. Masai giraffes are native to the savannas of Kenya and Tanzania.

The wild population has seen a 40 percent decline since 1985, because of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and illegal hunting.

The Nashville Zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Giraffe Species Survival Plan. The group contributes to the genetic preservation of the species across the country.

Anyone wishing to honor Congo is asked to contribute to the Zoo’s conservation efforts.

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