FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo announced on Sunday that its oldest male giraffe, Jelani, had to be euthanized due to deteriorating health.

“Jelani was suffering from neurological abnormalities that quickly worsened over a short time. Although we were treating for any potential causes, his welfare became compromised and he was humanely euthanized, surrounded by many that cared for him,” said Head Zoo Vet, Dr. Kami Fox.

Image of Jelani via Fort Wayne’s Children’s Zoo.
Image of Jelani via Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Jelani just celebrated his 24th birthday on August 3. The giraffe moved to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in May 1999 from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.

Members of Jelani’s care team said, “He was a sweet gentle giant who actively participated in his own care. He was especially fond of hoof work and having his feet filed. He was easy to work with and always enjoyed attention. He was a huge part of our family here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.”

Zoo staff is mourning the loss of its “patriarch” giraffe.