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The Living Desert Mourns the Passing of Dadisi

It is with a heavy heart that The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens announces the passing of Dadisi, the beloved, 23-year-old giraffe. On June 3, Dadisi was compassionately euthanized, passing peacefully on a soft bed of sand while surrounded by her loving caretakers. During her last days, team members from different departments of the Zoo visited Dadisi to say goodbye.

Dadisi was born on February 8, 2001, at the Oakland Zoo, and was the first giraffe to arrive at The Living Desert in 2002, marking the beginning of an era in the Zoo’s history. Shortly after, two males, Hesabu and Pona, joined the herd. Since Dadisi’s arrival, the herd has grown to 12 giraffe, including the two most recent calf births, both her grandchildren. Dadisi also saw the savanna grow into a multi-species habitat with the addition of ostrich and greater kudu.

Dadisi’s curious and adventurous nature was apparent from the beginning, as was her genuine connection with both animals and people. Dadisi truly brought joy to all those around her. “I’m glad she was able to spend pretty much her whole life here, and she’s had an amazing life,” said Animal Care Curator Wendy Enright, part of the team who welcomed Dadisi the day she arrived at The Living Desert. “I feel like she’s always had this spunk and fieriness to her,” Wendy continues. “She’s the most petite giraffe I’ve ever seen, but she’s got a big personality.” Throughout Dadisi’s time at The Living Desert, her friendly demeanor and calm presence helped to welcome new giraffe to the herd. “She’s been the matriarch of the group for many years,” Wendy adds. Beyond The Living Desert, Dadisi leaves the legacy of 37 descendants – including grandchildren and great-grandchildren – throughout AZA-accredited institutions around the country, coast-to-coast from New York to Hawaii.

Despite her age, Dadisi experienced relatively few medical issues throughout her life until her recent foot injury. Last September, the Zoo’s veterinary team discovered a fracture of the third phalanx on the middle toe of her right foot. Although these types of fractures are not uncommon in giraffe, healing from such an injury is often challenging and prolonged. Since the injury, Dadisi was recovering and resting behind the scenes where she was treated with laser therapy — which provided infrared heat to increase blood flow, decrease inflammation, and promote healthy cell growth — as well as pain and anti-inflammatory medications. During her time off the Giraffe Savanna habitat, Dadisi was kept company by other giraffe in the herd, including special visits from her daughter, Vicky Lou, and her granddaughter, JoAnn, who was born in January. In late February, Dadisi was with one of her other daughters, Shellie, when she gave birth to her second calf, Daniel.

Similar to humans, giraffe can develop age-related ailments, and many require geriatric care. Over the course of her lifetime of normal, regular activity, Dadisi developed arthritis in multiple joints of both front feet. Although not uncommon in aging giraffe, arthritis, when complicated by a digit fracture, may progress more rapidly to severe discomfort. After consulting with specialists and thoroughly assessing her treatment options, age, wellbeing, and to avoid rapid progression to severe, painful deterioration, The Living Desert’s veterinary and animal care teams decided that the best and most compassionate decision was to humanely euthanize Dadisi.

While this is never an easy decision, the teams that closely interacted with Dadisi on a daily basis knew that her complex injuries and advanced age meant she would be unable to safely return to the savanna, and her wellbeing would continue to decline. At The Living Desert, we are dedicated to facilitating the best possible wellbeing for the animals in our care throughout the entirety of their life, which includes geriatric and end-of-life care. Allowing an animal to go peacefully with the utmost respect, before their wellbeing drastically decreases, is the last gift that we can give. “I would much rather say goodbye to Dadisi after one of her better days than say goodbye on one of her worst days,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Chief Operating Officer. “We feel that’s one of the responsibilities we have to the animals in our care.” The Living Desert deeply thanks all of the animal care and veterinary team members for the outstanding care they have provided to Dadisi throughout her long life.

Dadisi’s calm yet adventurous presence will be greatly missed. She is survived on the Giraffe Savanna by daughters Shellie and Vicky Lou, son Twiga, and her three grandchildren, Cole, JoAnn, and Daniel. Dadisi is also survived by five herd mates on the savanna: herd bull Kellie, Tuli – now the eldest female on Giraffe Savanna, and young males Kopano, Kazi, and Harold.

Due to habitat loss and poaching, the giraffe population is drastically decreasing, yet many people are unaware, creating what is called a silent extinction. As an ambassador animal, Dadisi was instrumental in bringing awareness to her species through sharing her story for the past 23 years. The sincere connections Dadisi made with both guests and The Living Desert staff are undeniable. Dadisi also helped to contribute to the genetic sustainability and diversity of the vulnerable giraffe human care population.

Dadisi lives on at The Living Desert, and around the world, within the hearts of all who met her.

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