Peoria Zoo Searches for New Giraffe

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Diane Dwyer reports

    A national search already is under way to replace Savannah, the Peoria Zoo giraffe who died last week.

    Savannah, one of two giraffes at the zoo, was brought to Peoria to be housed in the Africa! exhibit in November 2008. He died in an unusual accident in front of a crowd of visitors, while trying to free himself from the fork of a tree where his neck was ensnared.
    To ensure the same tragic accident is not repeated, zoo officials say they have pruned that tree and are looking out for other pitfalls.
    "They are repairing the fence so that the gazelle and gerenuk can go out," zoo director Yvonne Strode said Tuesday. "We're going to discuss with the population manager about the giraffe, Taji, going outside, also."
    Taji, the remaining giraffe, has been kept in the outdoor holding yard since the incident.
    The population manager is talking with the International Species Inventory System in Atlanta about getting another giraffe. The Peoria Zoo has to abide by the rules of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in order to keep its accreditation, said Bonnie Noble, executive director of the Peoria Park District.
    "You don't just go out and get a replacement giraffe," Noble said.
    Accreditation is a public recognition that the zoo is committed to things like animal care, conservation and education, among other things.
    The Peoria zoo will have to go through the association's species population management plan.
    "Sometimes they are managed at different levels, when there is a fairly good population out there that doesn't have to be as closely monitored," Strode said.
    "But first we have to ascertain from current population numbers how genetically valuable is Taji. Once they do that, they can determine which animal can be sent here."
    Taji, as was Savannah, is a reticulated giraffe.
    "The population manager will tell us if Taji's genes are underrepresented in the population, and if so we can breed," she said.
    The giraffe exhibit was built with the purpose of adding to the population.
    "The numerous stalls are interconnected so we can hold the baby, no problem at all, "Strode said. "We meant it for three adults and two offspring."
    Although the necropsy report that will determine the cause of Savannah's death is not in yet, Strode does not think he sustained a heart attack.
    "The heart muscles seemed to be good, so we don't think it was a heart attack," she said.
    Meanwhile, Strode said she is appreciative of the public support.
    "It has just devastated the staff along with the community," she said.