COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo lost one of its most recognizable female giraffes Friday after an ongoing bout with medical issues.
Uzuri -- the giraffe herd's "silent leader," according to animal keeper Diana Cartier -- was euthanized Friday. The animal care team at the zoo made the difficult decision following Uzuri's challenges to stay stable on her back feet.
Zoo president Bob Chastain said, "When you care for nearly 1,000 animals, there are many great days and a few really hard days. Today was a hard day."
"She was also the first one to greet keepers," Diana said, describing Uzuri's affection for both zoo staffers and the herd. "It always felt like she was trying to reassure and relax us in the morning or when we were doing training with her. She was often the first one to shift outside if giraffe were nervous or if something was different."
The zoo said veterinarians were managing her pain with medications and laser therapy, but Uzuri's condition only worsened. She started resisting medications and refused her favorite treats. The team made the decision to euthanize her Friday morning.
It's the latest gut punch for the zoo, which also suffered massive damage to several buildings following an intense hail storm earlier this month.
Just a month ago, the zoo's 200th giraffe calf, Penny, had to be euthanized due to an infection that spread in her body. Many in the community had followed Penny's progress as veterinarians tried to improve her condition.
Uzuri was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001 and was well-known for her characteristic "dangling tongue," the zoo said in a Facebook post.