SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Gemina, a giraffe with a distinctive crooked neck and one of the most beloved animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo, has died. She was 21. The zoo euthanized the animal on Wednesday, it was announced Thursday.
"We observed a decline in her appetite over the past two weeks and she had stopped eating all together," said Alan Varsik, the zoo's director of animal programs and conservation.
"Her declining condition appeared to affect her quality of life. We did everything we could but the time came when we had to make the humane decision," he said in a statement.
Her illness was not believed related to her neck condition, although results of a necropsy will not be available for several weeks, the zoo said.
"Her demise is consistent with the challenges of old age," Varsik said.
"Though a few giraffes in captivity have been known to live into their late-twenties, reaching age 21 is considered an achievement," said zoo CEO and Director Rich Block said. "She was a great animal ambassador, showing that differences can be accepted and even celebrated. She will be missed."
The giraffe was born July 16, 1986, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and was brought to Santa Barbara when she was about a year old.
She was around 3 when she began to develop a crooked neck that eventually bent sharply and made it appear that she had swallowed a hockey stick.
Although her neck was X-rayed, the cause of the condition was never conclusively found.
It did not affect her eating and she was treated normally by other giraffes, the zoo said.
Gemina (pronounced Jeh-MEE-nah) had one offspring that died some years ago