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Freak Death of Beloved Giraffe Leads to Review of Animals' Toys at North Carolina Zoo

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Richard Miles/EyeEm/Getty

Jamili, a 9-year-old female giraffe, was found unresponsive in the living quarters of her habitat at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro on Tuesday. A press release from the zoo indicated she had accidentally become entangled in an enrichment item that had been used by the zoo’s giraffe herd for many years without incident.

Born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2008, Jamili, a reticulated giraffe, came to the North Carolina Zoo in 2009. She was the mother of one female calf, Juma, who was born in 2012 and now resides at the Maryland Zoo.

Jamili was a favorite among zoo guests, known for her easygoing personality and playful nature. Tragically, her love of playing with a barrel toy lead to her untimely death. According to the Charlotte Observer, the object got stuck on her head — specifically on the small, antler-esque “ossicones” that stick out from a giraffe’s head. Zookeepers assume she must’ve panicked and thrashed around her enclosure, which lead to her fatal injuries.

“Somehow, she got caught, and like any person would do, she panicked,” said zoo rep Lane Ragsdale. “We’re examining every enrichment item now to make sure there’s not a chance of this happening again.”

The spokesman explained the use of such items to the Charlotte Observer. “They help the animals be happy and content in their homes,” he said. “It stimulates their brains and causes them to interact better with other animals.”

The zoo’s curator of mammals, Guy Lichty, concurred with Ragsdale and said the toys and other equipment go through a rigorous safety approval process, which includes checking for sharp edges, toxicity, swallowing hazards and other potential problems.

In light of Jamili’s death, the zoo is now reviewing all of its safety policies and procedures. Handlers are reexamining all toys, physical and mental enrichment objects — including buckets, balls and paper maché dolls — as well as every animal’s enclosure, to prevent any future injuries.

“It’s such a sad time here now,” said Ragsdale.