Thursday, February 28, 2013

Saying goodbye to Chioke the giraffe

Posted by: African Savanna zookeepers

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Chioke means “gift from above” and our big male giraffe was exactly that. He came to Woodland Park Zoo from Oakland Zoo in the spring of 2007, and right away you could tell he was a special guy. His full name is Chioke Biton Amani McKinley, though he had the nickname Toaster (as in the Brave Little Toaster) because he had health issues to overcome from when he was very young. Sadly, Chioke continued to have intermittent health concerns, and he passed away last month.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It usually takes an animal a while to start to show trust in its keepers, but right from the get go Chioke, and his brother Kipande, showed great interest in what their keepers were up to, and that continued through his last days with us. Chioke’s willingness to interact with both the keepers and the public is what made him a fixture of our giraffe experience every year. Chioke met and connected with literally thousands of people every summer. He always made a connection with the people near him, filling them with awe and amazement. They would often think "how can something this big be so gentle?"

Photo by Matt Mills/Woodland Park Zoo.

Every time one of his keepers opened the door to the barn, Chioke's ears would spring forward, his Eeyore-esque eyes would pop open, he'd turn his head away from his door (where he kept an eye on Olivia and Tufani, our two female giraffe) and within seconds he'd canter over to see what they were up to. He would usually stretch his head into the office space in hopes for a treat. Even if he had to work a little for it, Chioke was ever hopeful that keepers would have a slice of banana or a little bread to share with him.

Photo by Katie Ahl/Woodland Park Zoo.

Chioke's interest and trust in people and even greater interest in food is part of what made him such a unique animal to work with. Whether it was patiently holding his nose on a target while getting a blood draw, or calmly plucking browse out of the hands of children during summer break, Chioke was always calm and sweet.

Photo by Amy Davis/Woodland Park Zoo.

Chioke was an amazing animal spirit. He is loved and deeply missed by his keepers, as well as volunteers, staff, and visitors here at Woodland Park Zoo. Keepers are keeping a special eye on Olivia who is assumed to be pregnant with Chioke’s calf. She is due this summer. We all hope this calf has a little of Chioke’s spirit and patience.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

19 comments:

  1. Beautifuly said, thank you for your amazing dedication.

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  2. Thank you for your work and letting us know about your special animals.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt experiences with Chioke. I am a Zoo Volunteer and have had the pleasure of assisting with the giraffe feedings and seeing Chioke's gentleness and charm, the visitors delight in the getting up close to such a magnificent animal, and the special bond he had with his keepers. We are so sorry for your loss and for the loss to our community. We miss him greatly.

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  4. I am so sad to read about the passing of one of the giraffes. They are my absolute favorite animal to draw and I've taken countless pictures of WPZ's giraffes. Fascinating, beautiful, gentle and the most beautiful eyes in the world. I hope his fellow giraffes are holding up okay as I am sure they are grieving for him, and probably miss him terribly. Just as the elephants cried over Hansa's death. My very sincere condolences to all of Chioke's keepers and caretakers over the loss of their dear charge, Chioke.

    J Ahlgren
    Seattle, WA

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    1. Jan thanks for the card you sent to the giraffe keepers. it was very sweet.

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    2. Your welcome! It was my pleasure to have drawn it and I was so glad I had it in card form to send my condolences to the keepers.

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  5. Thank you to the keepers who took care of him, made sure he lived a good life, and kept him from suffering from his many illnesses.

    Kwaheri, Twiga Chioke.

    Alexandra

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  6. thank you for making his life so special and for caring for him so much. I am sorry for your loss of this special giraffe.

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  7. Such a nice tribute to the Brave Tall Toaster.

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  8. About 2 years ago we were at your zoo. We were over my the giraffe's habitat when we heard a loud commotion. We hurried to where we could see over the fence. One of the giraffe's was chasing an ostrich. The ostrich had a panicked look on his face, it's wings furled out and then the poor bird tripped. The giraffe stopped charging the bird at that point but it was the funniest thing I have ever seen.

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  9. Thank-you for sharing this and for taking such good care of this wonderful guy.

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  10. Thank you for the moving and heartfelt tribute to this wonderful creature. I am sad for you, and for all of us.

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  11. Thank you so much for your wonderful tribute to an awesome giraffe, Chioke - may his spirit live on

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  14. My thoughts are with his keepers. I was a keeper of Kipande and to see that they have both passed on is a shame. I hope Olivia is pregnant and it all goes smoothly!

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  15. I never got to met him, but I love giraffes and he sounds like he was a very sweet giraffe. Sorry for your loss.

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