Sacramento Zoo closed for part of Saturday after Valentine the giraffe dies

The Sacramento Zoo will be temporary closed on Saturday following the death of an older female giraffe, according to a statement.

“The Sacramento Zoo is heartbroken to report that one of our geriatric female giraffes, Valentine, was found deceased in her sleeping quarters early this morning,” zoo officials said.

Valentine’s cause of death is unknown, but the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine will perform an necropsy, according to the zoo’s statement.

The older giraffe celebrated her 24th birthday on Valentine’s Day, and was struggling with arthritis, a lame front left leg, irregular hoof wear and joint breakdowns, the zoo said.

The mammal had been at the Sacramento Zoo since 1995, and was known for being a “laid-back leader of the herd.”

“Her care team was doing everything possible to make her golden years comfortable by performing regular hoof trims to help with normal walking and wearing of hoofs as well as radiographs and heat and cold packs for added comfort,” according to the statement.

The zoo is likely to reopen this afternoon, officials said, and will resume regular business hours on Sunday.

According to zoo officials, Val, as she was known, was born in 1995 at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and moved to Sacramento in November 1995. “She was recognized by her rusty red coloring and fuzzy ossicones. She is remembered for being a laid-back leader of the herd,” officials said.

She was one of several reticulated giraffes housed at the zoo, which also features Masai giraffes. The large ungulate typically have a lifespan of 25 years, according to the National Geographic Society.

In May, the zoo lost another longtime resident when Gudrun died after a long battle with arthritis and foot issues. Nicknamed Goody, she had been at the zoo for 20 years.

On Friday, the zoo had celebrated the 21st birthday of Goody’s sister, Skye.

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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.