‘Jesse the Giraffe’ approaching end of life

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) For more than 24 years, Jesse the Giraffe has greeted guests at the Topeka Zoo.  In late March, City officials issued a release stating that Jesse was receiving end-of-life care.  Last week, zoo staff began seeing indicators that Jesse’s condition had changed.  With two consulting veterinarians in agreement, zoo officials now believe that Jesse’s hospice care will end in the next few days.

Jesse the Giraffe was born on April 15, 1990, in Topeka. At the age of 24, Jesse is the oldest living Reticulated Giraffe living in a North American zoo.

“In late March, we were actively treating laminitis that had developed in his two front hooves,” Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said.  “Jesse received great care.  A team of zookeepers, veterinary staff, and a local farrier have done an outstanding job of working with his hooves to help him with his condition.”

Laminitis is a disease that affects the feet of hooved animals, most often seen in horses and cattle.  Symptoms include foot tenderness, problems walking, and inflammation.

Over the last few years, Topeka Zoo staff members have carefully tracked Jesse’s health, and they’ve observed a growing number of age-associated changes in his body, including arthritis in his rear legs, muscle atrophy in his neck, and difficulty with mobility – it is hard for Jesse to lie down and get back up.  The development of laminitis in Jesse’s two front hooves has been the zoo’s biggest concern.

As Jesse’s age, taking care of him requires an extraordinary amount of effort from the zoo’s animal care and veterinary staff.  Jesse has been on and off antibiotics.  He takes medicine for pain management and joint comfort, and takes a nutrition supplement.

During his time at the Topeka Zoo, Jesse fathered seven other giraffe and had one granddaughter born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

His legacy will continue in Topeka through his daughter, Hope, who turned four years old on July 11, 2014.  Hope has been paired with Sgt. Peppers who was transferred from the Oklahoma City Zoo to the Topeka Zoo in October 2013.

“This is a hard time,” Wiley said.  “Jesse is special not only to the staff here, but to many people in our community as well.  People grew up with him.  We will miss him very much.”

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