OAKLAND, Calif. (CBS SF) — An elderly giraffe famous for sporting a custom-made coat to weather the winter cold has died.
Tiki, which is short for T'Keyah, was born at the Oakland Zoo in 1989 and died at the age of 28, which is roughly the age of 95 in giraffe years, zoo officials said.
Ongoing medical issues in recent months, including ringbone arthritis that affected her feet, back and neck, compromised her quality of life to the point where zoo veterinarians reluctantly decided that euthanizing her would be the humane thing to do, according to the zoo.
Tiki's impact on researchers' understanding of giraffe behavior and intelligence, and on both her own zookeepers and those around the world, was "tremendous," zoo officials said.
The zoo said Tiki proved herself to be a great mother and grandmother because she gave birth to five healthy calves over the years.
Two of those calves have moved to other zoos while the other three have remained at Oakland Zoo. In addition, Tiki nurtured and helped raise seven additional
calves within her herd in Oakland.
Oakland Zoo officials said experts previously assumed that giraffes were incapable of learning, but Tiki demonstrated that they are smart and able to learn and be patient.
For example, Tiki would voluntarily participate in hoof trimming, and for her neck and back issues resulting from her arthritis, she received a combination of regular acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy and traditional Western medicine, according to the zoo.
"T'Keyah was unique, everyone who met her fell in love with her instantly," Jessica Real, the senior giraffe keeper at the Oakland Zoo, said in a statement.
"Through her patience and gentle presence, she was a great teacher to us all. She broke the barriers of what were standard practices in giraffe care," Real said.
She added, "Articles were published in countries around the world, shedding new light on what was possible for giraffes in human care. She'll be deeply missed."
Zoo officials said the standard of giraffe care began to slowly evolve in zoos in the U.S. and as far away as Japan and Uganda as the training system developed with Tiki was shared with the zookeeping community many years ago.
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