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Remembering Shirley the warthog

Zoo Atlanta is saddened to share the news that Shirley, a 13-year-old warthog at Zoo Atlanta, has died. The Animal Care Teams had been monitoring Shirley closely following a loss of appetite and other signs of illness. After diagnostic procedures on Saturday, February 29 proved inconclusive, an exploratory surgery performed by the Veterinary Team on Monday, March 2, revealed multiple abnormalities in Shirley’s digestive system organs. Given her poor prognosis, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Shirley helped introduce Zoo Atlanta guests to her species in 2007, when she and late male Vern arrived with the opening of the Zoo’s Kalahari Connections complex. The pair were parents to five litters of piglets over the years, all but one of whom ultimately moved to other zoos, many starting families of their own. A daughter, 5-year-old Eleanor, resides at Zoo Atlanta and moved with Shirley to the Zoo’s new African Savanna in August 2019.

“It is extremely difficult to lose any animal, and many come very close to our hearts for their individual personalities and the relationships their care teams are able to form with them. This was certainly the case with Shirley, who was very dear to the team who cared for her daily,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director. “She will be greatly missed by all those who had come to love her, and that includes the countless Members and guests who had the opportunity to appreciate her over her years with us.”

A necropsy, or the non-human equivalent of an autopsy, is performed following all animal deaths at Zoo Atlanta, regardless of age. Pathology report results are pending, and full results should be available in coming weeks.


Rachel Davis
Director of Communications
404.624.2812 – office
404.309.2238 – cell

Gavin Johnson
Public Relations and Communications Specialist
404.624.5980 – office

About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, home to more than 70 species in the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian complex. Experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African lions, Aldabra giant tortoises, giant pandas and lemurs. Zoo Atlanta is open year-round with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper Talks, interactive wildlife presentations, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit

NOW OPEN: the all-new African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs and meerkats. Coming soon: southern white rhino.

NOW OPEN FOR EVENTS: Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly-restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama. Highlights include the Michael & Thalia Carlos Ballroom, a two-level space with sweeping views into the African Savanna; the Delta Savanna Terrace; multi-purpose meeting venues; and more.

The African Savanna and Savanna Hall are part of the Zoo’s landmark Grand New View transformation. Future elements include an enhanced entry plaza, opening in early 2020. For more on the Zoo’s mission and conservation programs and partnerships, visit or download the conservation report, Beyond the Zoo.

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