South Dakota zoo euthanizes beloved giraffe after foot injury

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A beloved giraffe at a zoo in South Dakota has died.

On Thursday, the Great Plains Zoo and Butterfly House & Aquarium in Sioux Falls announced the death of Chioke, an 18-year-old reticulated giraffe. He died March 28.

“Following a severe fracture in his front left foot, Animal Care and Veterinary leaders made the difficult, but responsible, decision to humanely euthanize him,” the zoo said in a news release.

Chioke, born in Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, came to the zoo in 2007. He grew to nearly 15 feet tall and sired three offspring, who went on to other zoos. The Great Plains Zoo remembered him for his playfulness.

He had recurring hoof and foot issues in his later years, including two fractures to the tip of his toe bone and resulting arthritis, the zoo said. He suffered a more serious fracture in March.

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The zoo consulted nationwide for a treatment plan and used several methods, including drugs, rest and laser therapy, but ultimately decided to euthanize Chioke “due to quality-of-life concerns" after his team had ruled out immobilizing him for surgery or an orthopedic device, and X-rays showed the fracture had worsened.

Zoo staff visited the giraffe to say goodbye, feeding him apple biscuits, a favorite of his.

“We remember Chioke as a gentle, curious, mischievous giraffe who was always up for feedings and interacting with his keepers and guests,” the zoo said. “'Chioke' means ‘gift from God,’ and he certainly was."

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