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The Living Desert Mourns the Passing of Natalia, a Beloved Grevy’s Zebra

It is with a heavy heart that The Living Desert shares the passing of Natalia, a 19-year-old Grevy’s zebra, who has humanely euthanized due to medical complications stemming from mobility issues. During her 16+ years here, Natalia touched many hearts, and we are deeply saddened by her passing. She was born on December 2, 2004, and came to The Living Desert on February 4, 2007, from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas.

This week, Natalia presented with severe lameness, leaving her unable to stand up without extreme distress and difficulty. After close monitoring and efforts to physically help Natalia back to standing, it was evident that the veterinary care team would need to move Natalia to the hospital to determine the severity of the situation. It was determined that the most compassionate decision for Natalia was to be humanely euthanized.

At the time of Natalia’s passing, she was in late-term pregnancy. Throughout the time of her pregnancy, the animal care team ensured she was as comfortable as possible and closely monitored her quality of life and regularly assessed wellbeing. Under expert care from The Living Desert’s veterinary and animal care staff – who had consulted with several specialist surgeons – the foal was born under emergency cesarian section. All efforts were given to sustain the premature foal; however, he was not fully developed. “This would make for a very compromised animal that we could not, in good conscience, allow to potentially suffer with the many complications from being premature,” said Chief Operating Officer and former Director of Animal Care RoxAnna Breitigan. After careful consideration, the decision was made that it was in the best interest of the foal to be compassionately euthanized.

While The Living Desert mourns the loss of Natalia and her foal, Natalia’s vibrant story lives on in the hearts of all who met her throughout the past 19 years. She lives on in the sustainability of the endangered Grevy’s zebra population through her previous foals – a female that went on to have her own foals and a male who is part of a breeding program at another facility.

“Caring for animals in human care means through their entire life, which includes the end of life,” said RoxAnna Breitigan. “It is our responsibility to make those hard decisions so that they can go peacefully and respectfully. This is the final gift of love that we can bestow upon them.”

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