Top Giraffe At Topeka Zoo Receiving End-Of-Life Care

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Less than three weeks from his 24th birthday, Jesse, the top dog of the Topeka Zoo's giraffes, is reaching his final days. On Wednesday, zoo officials announced they are providing Jesse with "end-of-life" care.

“We talk a lot about ‘quality of life’ – what that looks like and what it means,” Zoo Director Brenden Wiley said. "His appetite continues to be good. As for his spirit, we have no doubt that Jesse knows and feels he is the dominant male in the herd."

"His eyes are bright and alert. It’s when we come to the day that one of those pieces is missing that we’ll have to make a hard decision. Whether that is days, weeks or months from now, we aren’t sure yet. He will dictate that,” continued Wiley.

Three officials from the USDA's Health Inspection Service visited this week, following complaints about the giraffe's hooves. Jesse has laminitis, which causes tenderness, problems with walking, and inflammation.

“As long as he walks well with a normal gait, we are confident that through pain management medications and the reshaping of his hooves, he is comfortable."

Zoo officials explained to them how they're treating Jesse and how they plan to tell when his health is no longer manageable, They're expecting feedback from the USDA in the coming weeks.

Jesse also suffers from arthritis in his rear legs and some muscle atrophy in his neck, which makes it tougher for him to get up and down, Wiley explained.

Jesse was born at the Topeka Zoo on April 15, 1990. He's had six calves and remains the patriach of the zoo's giraffes. Zoo officials have already designated his successor, Sergeant Peppers, who arrived at the zoo in October 2013.

“Responsible animal management is sometimes awkward,” Wiley said. “On one hand, we have this beautiful, old, bull giraffe that still has the spirit of life in his soul. On the other hand is a young male that doesn’t fully understand what it means to be a bull yet, but who has already been assigned a future in Topeka.”

Posted by: Nick Viviani