Sota, Reid Park Zoo’s 3-year-old giraffe, was euthanized on Friday, March 17.
“During a medical procedure to explore Sota’s swollen ankle joint, the veterinary surgeon was able to determine that the joint did not have any healthy cartilage remaining,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, the zoo’s chief operating officer, in a news release.
“The medical team could not provide any relief to the joint. Given this prognosis, our team made the incredibly difficult decision to humanely euthanize Sota.”
Leg health is critically important to giraffes due to their height. With a leg unable to support normal movement and activity, Sota would not be able to hold his own weight and his “quality of life would decline quickly,” Tygielski said.
The cause of the ankle injury wasn’t clear, and it initially appeared as a minor discomfort giving Sota a subtle limp.
Because of the injury, “Sota had been receiving daily medical treatment including pain medications. Friday’s procedure was the second one the team conducted in an effort to support the ankle joint,” the statement said.
Reid Park Zoo’s other giraffes, Penelope and Jasiri, “are doing well. They were given time to visit Sota’s body as he was part of their herd.”
The zoo “will provide additional behavioral monitoring in the coming weeks as Penelope and Jasiri adjust to Sota’s absence.”
Penelope, then 2, and Sota, at age 1, arrived together to Tucson in 2020 from a zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota.
At the time, the giraffe Denver was also part of the Reid Park Zoo’s herd, along with Jasiri. The zoo euthanized Denver in 2021, at age 32, due to health concerns in geriatric animals; Denver outlived the median life expectancy by 12 years.