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One of the world's oldest endangered giraffes in captivity, 31-year-old Twiga, dies at Texas zoo

A 31-year-old giraffe named Twiga has died at its home at Texas' Ellen Trout Zoo, officials said over the weekend. She was believed to be one of the world's oldest living giraffes in captivity. 

Twiga was a Masai giraffe, a species native to Tanzania and Kenya whose population has declined by more than half in recent decades, according to the Wild Nature Institute. The species is considered endangered, according got the IUCN Red List, with just 35,000 mature individuals estimated to be remaining in the wild. 

Twiga was 31 years and 9 months old when she died, the City of Lufkin, Texas, said on Facebook, adding that she had "held the record for the oldest living giraffe in human care." Born in 1991, Twiga ended up at Texas' Ellen Trout Zoo in 2008 after a stint at Racine Zoo in Wisconsin.  

"Twiga helped our other two giraffes, Kellen and Luna, feel comfortable in their new home in Lufkin," zoo director Gordon Henley said in a statement. "She will be greatly missed." 

ZOO NEWS: The Ellen Trout Zoo is saddened to share the news that Twiga, our female Maasai giraffe, passed away last...

Posted by City Of Lufkin, Texas on Saturday, July 8, 2023

Officials noted that Twiga's age was unusual for the species, as Masai giraffes generally only live to be about 25 years old. 

Another 31-year-old giraffe, Mutangi, died at Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 2021. She was the oldest giraffe in Australia at the time of her death, officials had said, and was descrribed as the "undisputed queen of the zoo." And in 2017, a 32-year-old giraffe named Ursula died at Oklahoma City Zoo, at which time she was considered the oldest giraffe at an accredited zoo in the U.S.

About 30 years ago, about 70,000 Masai giraffes were estimated to be roaming their native lands. But in the most recent estimate, the IUCN says there are just roughly 35,000. The reason for the sharp decline is believed to mostly be from habitat loss and illegal hunting, the organization said. 

Twiga was one of several giraffes at the Texas zoo. She was joined by male giraffe Kellen, who is 10, and Luna, who is 1. 

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