Zoo Knoxville’s beloved giraffe, Patches, euthanized due to declining health

At 31 years of age, Patches was the oldest giraffe in the U.S.


Zoo Knoxville is saddened to announce that beloved giraffe, Patches, has been humanely euthanized due to declining health caused by advanced age.


Approximately a year ago, Patches began displaying signs of stiffness and was started on medication to address her symptoms.  Radiographs confirmed a diagnosis of arthritis.  Her symptoms became more acute over the last few months and in recent weeks her physical health began to show a notable decline.  Her caretakers, in conjunction with the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, determined that her quality of life had reached a turning point.  They reached the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her on Thursday morning.


At 31 years of age, Patches was the oldest reticulated giraffe in the U.S.  With the average giraffe life expectancy of a giraffe at 25 years, Patches’ longevity can be attributed to the excellent care she has received from both the zoo staff and the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine throughout her lifetime.


Patches was born in Knoxville on June 9, 1987, and had eight offspring.  Her last daughter, Lucille, was born in 2002 and still resides at Zoo Knoxville with male Jumbe and female Frances.  As wild populations of giraffes are now endangered and declining, Patches served her species by helping to ensure there will be a healthy and genetically viable population of giraffes in human care.  The herd at Zoo Knoxville is part of a larger collaborative effort of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and partners in Africa working to save giraffes from extinction.


“Over her lifetime, Patches was an iconic ambassador.  She made it possible for millions of visitors who will never have the opportunity to travel to Africa to experience the beauty and gracefulness of her species.  We will always be grateful to her for inspiring our community to care about the future of giraffes and to support the work we are doing to save them,” said Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville President and CEO.

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