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Maryland Zoo giraffe Willow dies suddenly


Cause of death of 6-year-old reticulated giraffe still unknown

The Maryland Zoo recently announced the loss of its beloved 6-year-old reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), Willow. The cause of death is currently unknown.

Willow, adored giraffe at Maryland Zoo (Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo).

Willow, adored giraffe at Maryland Zoo (Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo).

According to an organizational release,1 Willow experienced a sharp decline in appetite last Friday. Gastrointestinal complications are common in ruminants, and the zoo started treating Willow and closely monitoring her health 24-7. She was stable before suddenly deteriorating. A complete post-mortem examination will reveal the cause of her sudden decline.

Willow was born at the Maryland Zoo to female, Juma, and male Caesar, who still calls the Giraffe House home. She was a renowned animal at the zoo and named during a public contest that had more than 26,000 responses.

“This is a tremendous loss and we know our members, guests, and friends feel it too. Since her birth, Willow has inspired joy and compassion in thousands of people. She grew from an awkward calf with ossicones that looked like pigtails to a beautiful icon of the zoo and her vulnerable species,” the zoo stated in the release.1

“Her presence at the Giraffe Feeding Station, in particular, is something everyone will miss. We could go on about Willow’s goofy personality and many life milestones and know those topics will be in conversations today in our barns and your homes. We know you understand how special Willow was and the significance of her loss. Thank you in advance for joining us in mourning.”

Giraffes are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, though, “populations of giraffes are scattered and fragmented, with different growth trajectories and threats.” Out of the 9 subspecies, 4 are increasing, 4 are decreasing, and 1 is stable.1 Reticulated giraffes are 1 of the subspecies experiencing population decline, mainly due to habitat loss, degradation, illegal hunting, and poaching.

The zoo made a memorial comment form in honor of Willow to be found here. The message submissions will be shared with the teams that cared for Willow.


Maryland Zoo mourns the unexpected loss of giraffe, willow. Maryland Zoo. March 28, 2023. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://www.marylandzoo.org/news-and-updates/2023/03/maryland-zoo-mourns-willow-the-reticulated-giraffe

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