It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of Jumokey the Zebra.
Jumokey was born at the Oakland Zoo August 18th, 1996. At this time, the zebras were living in the area now occupied by warthogs and the baboon holding building. While they lived in this exhibit, they were managed very hands-off and did not get a lot of training by keepers. In early 2003 the zebra herd was moved to their current and larger exhibit in the African Savanna. The larger exhibit gave them much more space and gave keepers better access to the zebras. This also meant keepers had more training opportunities as training became a more essential aspect of good animal care. Since the zebras were managed in a more “hands-off” way before the move, they were quite shy of people and did not readily approach keepers for food. Keepers worked hard to teach the zebras to be less nervous, approach keepers and eventually guests for behind-the-scenes events.
Once the zebras were more confident and knew how training worked, more advanced husbandry training began. Jumokey’s first major husbandry training accomplishment was her voluntary blood draw. Keepers were able to get repeated blood draws with no stress, which allowed us to check for infections and monitor values as Jumokey aged. Keepers continued training for things like ear checks, sinus swabs, the use of a stethoscope and more.
Within the past 6 months Jumokey developed a very dramatic nasal discharge from just one nostril that would not completely resolve with medications alone. When the Oakland Zoo Vet Hospital team asked about attempting to get radiographs (or x-rays) of her sinuses, the zebra training team immediately started training. Keepers were able to get clear radiographs that were sent to an equine specialist to decipher. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was an oral/nasal fistula above her right molars. The treatment for this condition is very challenging and would not have a high chance of success for a geriatric animal like Jumokey. Veterinarians and keeper staff had to make the very difficult decision of euthanizing Jumokey on Saturday, 4/18.
Jumokey was easy to identify by her brown nose and slight flop to her mane later in life. Her opinions on what we were doing or training were always easy to read and if she was tired of doing a particular behavior, she certainly let her trainer know. Jumokey’s love of horse cookies knew no bounds and she would take treats from absolutely everyone in a moment’s notice. She has been a key part of the Oakland Zoo’s zebra herd for her entire life. Countless keepers, volunteers and interns have had the opportunity to work with and learn from her. The Oakland Zoo’s dazzle of zebras will be a little less dazzling without Jumokey, and she will be greatly missed.