NC Zoo giraffe dies in accident

Jamili, left, with her daughter Juma.
Jamili, left, with her daughter Juma. Bennie Goetze Jr.

One of the North Carolina Zoo’s four giraffes died Tuesday after becoming tangled in a piece of equipment.

Keepers at the zoo’s giraffe habitat found Jamili, a 9-year-old female, unresponsive in her behind-the-scenes living quarters early Tuesday morning.

Jamili died after she accidentally became tangled in a “mental and physical engagement item.” The item and others like it had been used “for many years with our giraffe herd without incident,” said zoo spokeswoman Lane Ragsdale.

Keepers at the zoo use many products to create safe enrichment toys for animals to play with. The toy that Jamili became tangled in was made from a barrel, according to Guy Lichty, mammal curator for the zoo.

“These barrels can be modified for many uses, including puzzle feeders, noise makers, and rubbing surfaces,” Lichty said in an email Tuesday. “To use layperson’s terms, they’re basically toys. And, as with children’s toys, we are very careful to scrutinize them for safety, e.g. sharp edges, toxicity, swallowing hazards, etc.”

Lichty said there is an approval process for new enrichment equipment to make sure they’re safe for the animals. The equipment is tested before use, and many of the designs are shared among other zoos.

“This was an unusual and extremely rare accident,” Lichty said. “For some unknown reason, this giraffe discovered a flaw in this particular enrichment item that had not been recognized after years of use by the entire giraffe herd. As a result, this item was immediately removed from use, and we are assessing and re-evaluating all of our enrichment items for animal care and safety.”

Jamili was a reticulated giraffe who was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs in 2008. She came to the N.C. Zoo in 2009 where keepers were “immediately taken by Jamili’s easy going personality,” Ragsdale said.

Jamili gave birth to a female, Juma, in July 2012. Juma is now at the Maryland Zoo, where she gave birth to her own female calf in February.

The N.C. Zoo has a herd of three giraffe now that Jamili has passed – two males and one female.

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett