10-year-old Lily and year-old Jioni were killed by a 'billion-to-one' lightning strike incident at a Florida wildlife park last month

By Matt McNulty
June 12, 2019 02:43 PM
Jioni giraffe struck by lightning
Credit: Lion Country Safari

Two giraffes were struck by lightning and killed in what is being described as a “billion-to-one” incident at a Florida wildlife park last month.

10-year-old female Lily and year-old Jioni were fatally struck by lightning on May 3, while living at the Lion Country Safari, which is roughly 20 miles west of West Palm Beach. The amusement park and drive-through safari had 20 giraffes on-site prior to last month’s tragic incident.

“We are deeply saddened to share the passing of two of our giraffe due to a lightning strike. Lily and Jioni were in the pasture in their habitat when a severe thunderstorm quickly developed 6 weeks ago,” the Lion Country Safari Facebook page posted on Tuesday. “Recent pathology results confirm that the giraffe did pass as a result of the lightning and that the manner of their passing was instantaneous.”

“The giraffe do have access to numerous shelters in the multi-acre habitat, if they choose to use them. The keepers and our whole team were understandably devastated by this sudden and tragic loss; out of respect for their mourning and the pending pathology results, we waited to share this information. We continue to mourn our two incredibly lovely and charismatic giraffe; they will both be sorely missed,” the statement read.

According to Lion Country Safari spokeswoman Haley Passeser, Lily stood between 14 and 16 feet tall, while Jioni was between 10 and 12 feet. The two giraffes were not related to one another.

“It’s like a billion-to-one chance this happened to us and our poor giraffes, but we are looking at anything we can to improve upon,” Passeser told NBC News.

Passeser said it is still unclear if the animals were killed by a single lightning bolt or by two separate ones, noting that no one at the park witnessed the incident. She did confirm that the two giraffes were found close to one another.

Giraffes can live up to be 25 years old, Passeser added. However, animal rights groups, like PETA, claim that the animals have a reduced lifespan when living in captivity, because they are at greater risk for health problems and injuries.