Great Plains Zoo Mourns Loss of Beloved Giraffe, Chioke


In the heartland of America, in South Dakota’s bustling city of Sioux Falls, the Great Plains Zoo and Butterfly House & Aquarium is in mourning. Its loss is made all the more poignant, as the dearly departed was an individual greatly loved by every staff member and visitor – Chioke, an 18-year-old reticulated giraffe.

Chioke, a veritable giant of the animal kingdom, whose playful spirit had helped him become something of a celebrity within the zoo’s boundaries, passed away on March 28. This mournful news was shared by the zoo officials on the Thursday following his death. The decision to euthanize him was taken after a heavy-hearted discussion amongst the Animal Care and Veterinary leaders, in light of a severe fracture to the giraffe’s front left foot.

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Bearing a name that translates to ‘gift from God’, Chioke was born in Busch Gardens, situated in Tampa, Florida. He bounded onto the Great Plains Zoo scene in 2007, bringing joy and a hint of playful mischievousness that immediately endeared him to zoo staff and visitors alike. Standing nearly 15 feet tall, he was a magnificent sight, dwarfing all by his sheer size. His legacy will live on in the three children he sired, each of which now resides in other zoos.

Despite his radiant, majestic aura, his later years were blemished by recurring foot and hoof complications, including two fractures to the tip of his toe bone, coupled with the inevitable arthritic twinges of old age. The fracture that ushered his end was a grave one, occurring this past March.

In an attempt to salvage the situation and potentially nurse Chioke back to health, the zoo sought and consulted several treatment plans, employing various methods such as rest, medication, and even laser therapy. Alas, the fracture proved insurmountable, with x-rays revealing a worsening situation. Confronted with quality-of-life concerns, the zoo decided against immobilization for surgery or fitting him with an orthopaedic device and instead, made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize.

In a touching farewell, the zoo staff paid their last visits to the kindhearted giraffe, feeding him his favorite apple biscuits as a goodbye treat. In a heart-rending statement, the zoo said, “We remember Chioke as a gentle, curious, mischievous giraffe who was always up for feedings and interacting with his keepers and guests. ‘Chioke’ means ‘gift from God,’ and indeed, he was.” Thus ended the incredible journey of the peerless and gentle creature, leaving behind a void that will be felt deeply by all who knew him.