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Zoo Atlanta mourns loss of Abu

The Zoo Atlanta community is saddened to share that Abu the giraffe has died. At 16, Abu was the oldest member of the Zoo’s giraffe herd and was considered geriatric. The Animal Care and Veterinary Teams had been monitoring Abu closely in recent days following a sharp decline in his health. Given his poor prognosis and with concern for the impact on his quality of life, the teams made the extremely difficult decision to euthanize him on October 15, 2021.

“This is a very sad day for Zoo Atlanta. Abu was very special to so many, both within the Zoo team and among our Members and guests,” said Sam Rivera, DVM, Senior Director of Animal Health. “Our Animal Care and Veterinary Teams have worked tirelessly in their efforts to care for Abu, always with his well-being foremost in our minds, and pursued every option available to us in terms of his treatment. We have all appreciated the amazing support of our Zoo Atlanta community, Members and friends for our efforts and for Abu.”

The Zoo Atlanta team’s efforts to mitigate the effects of Abu’s arthritis have been significant and innovative. In 2020, Abu underwent a procedure under general anesthesia to facilitate hoof work. In May 2021, Zoo Atlanta announced that Abu had undergone a procedure in which he was fitted with two special therapeutic shoes to help stabilize his front feet and slow down the progression of the arthritis. At that time, he received stem cell therapy, a groundbreaking tool that has proven helpful in treating osteoarthritis in a variety of species. In August 2021, the therapeutic shoes, which have been used with giraffes at other institutions and are not meant to be worn for long periods, were removed during a second procedure. Abu again received stem cell therapy using stem cells collected from his own blood. Treatments have also included laser therapy, analgesic medication, and hoof trimming – all made possible by the extensive time and dedication of Abu’s care team in their work with Abu on positive reinforcement training that not only aided in these procedures but also in his ongoing care. Their efforts ranged from daily training for therapy, foot work, and blood draws, to encouraging him to take his medication. The Animal Care Teams worked diligently to ensure Abu received the best treatments possible.

Abu arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 2007. In 2010, he became the father of the first giraffe calf ever born at Zoo Atlanta, and sired a second offspring in 2011 before later becoming the dominant member of an all-male herd. The two other giraffes at Zoo Atlanta are males Etana and Isooba, both 10 years old.

A necropsy, or the non-human equivalent of an autopsy, will be performed through the Zoo’s partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Pathology results should be available in several 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 the all-new African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, meerkats, and rhinos; Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama; and the new Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Plaza. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.

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