Oakland Zoo Mourns Loss of Beloved Tiki, Likely the Most Well-Known Giraffe in Captivity

Oakland Zoo
November 17, 2017

Oakland Zoo Mourns Loss of Beloved Tiki, Likely the Most Well-Known Giraffe in Captivity

At 28 years of age, Tiki reached 95 in ‘equivalent giraffe years;’ her impact on researchers’ understanding of giraffe behavior and intelligence, and on both her own zookeepers and those around the world, is tremendous.

Oakland, CA…November 16, 2017 – For decades the public has enjoyed stories about Tiki (short for T’Keyah), most notably her need for a custom-made coat back in 2008, when she was already considered geriatric by giraffe standards and needed protection from the cold in order to socialize with her herd-mates outside her heated barn during winter. Born at Oakland Zoo in 1989, Tiki was one of the oldest living giraffes in captivity. In recent months, ongoing medical issues, including ringbone arthritis that effected her feet, back and neck, compromised her quality of life to the point where Zoo veterinarians made the somber decision that euthanizing her would be the humane decision under her existing condition.

Tiki proved herself a great mother and grandmother, birthing five healthy calves over the years. Two of the calves have moved to other zoos, while the other three have remained at Oakland Zoo (daughter, Twiga, and two sons, Benghazi and Balthazar). Not only had she raised five calves on her own, she also nurtured and helped raise seven additional calves within her herd here.

On her impact on the ‘giraffe community’ of researchers, scientists, and zookeepers worldwide, Tiki began developing medical issues at the age of fourteen that required Oakland Zoo zookeepers to think ‘outside the box’ of traditional giraffe management in animal care. An unprecedented training methodology evolved that was previously assumed giraffes were incapable of learning. Tiki demonstrated that giraffes are smart, very much capable of learning, and practicing patience – she would voluntarily participate in hoof trimming, and for her neck and back issues resulting from arthritis she received a combination of regular acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy and traditional Western medicine.

“T'Keyah was unique, everyone who met her fell in love with her instantly. 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. 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,” said Jessica Real, Senior Giraffe Keeper at Oakland Zoo.

As the training system developed with Tiki was shared with the zookeeping community around the world beginning many years ago, the standard of giraffe care began to slowly evolve in zoos in the U.S. - and as far as Japan and Uganda. Since her passing, a hashtag, #thanksTiki, was created and is being used on a giraffe zookeeper Facebook group to show how Tiki influenced giraffe training at other zoos.

About Oakland Zoo

The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 700 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide; with 50¢ from each ticket donated to support conservation partners and programs around the world. The California Trail, a transformational project that more than doubles our size, opens in June 2018, and will further our commitment to animal care, education, and conservation with a focus on this state’s remarkable native wildlife.


Erin Harrison, (510) 746-7120, eharrison@oaklandzoo.org_ or Reuben Maness (510) 632-9525 ext. 135, rmaness@oaklandzoo.org