An 18-foot tall Masai giraffe at New Jersey's Turtle Back Zoo has died from complications during a medical procedure.
Hodari arrived at the zoo in Essex County from South Carolina in 2015, and was one of four giraffes that were part of the zoo's African Adventure.
Essex County, which operates the zoo under its parks department, announced the death.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Hodari. On behalf of Turtle Back’s staff, we cannot express how great this loss is," Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said. "The Giraffe Exhibit quickly became Turtle Back Zoo’s most popular attraction, and it was because of Hodari. He was the giraffe that was most comfortable being fed by the public, so our visitors became acquainted with him the most."
Zoo officials say the 11-year-old died Wednesday under anesthesia while a veterinarian and dental specialist worked on the giraffe's teeth to correct a problem that was making it difficult for Hodari to eat.
Dr. Jon Bergmann says they knew there were risks, but they believed the procedure would be beneficial.
"We believed this would give Hodari a better quality of life, improve his overall health and allow him to continue to thrive at Turtle Back Zoo," Bergmann said. "We knew there were risks when putting an animal of Hodari’s size under anesthesia, but we also knew repairing his teeth would be more beneficial for him."
The exact cause of death will be determined by a necropsy.