BOWNE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Officials at the Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park have announced that one of their giraffes died suddenly this week.
Tucker, who was 13 years old, was found unresponsive by staff Monday and died a short time later. Veterinarians at the animal park completed a necropsy Tuesday and confirmed Tucker had died from heart failure.
“This was a complete shock to all of us as he showed no signs of having any issues,” the park said in a Facebook post.
Tucker was born on Dec. 1, 2009, at Boulder Ridge and was introduced to the public shortly thereafter. The zoo said he would be remembered as a gentle giant.
“Tucker will be remembered as the ‘big guy’ with the defining cross pattern on his neck and with the long, black tongue who would gently snag a lettuce leaf from the hands of anyone within reach. He brought joy to so many people and will be greatly missed by all,” the park stated.
Giraffes have extremely high blood pressure because of their unique body composition. Their giant necks are forced to pump their hearts harder to get blood to their brain. According to Smithsonian Magazine, for a giraffe to achieve a blood pressure of 110/70 in their brain, the blood pressure in their heart needs to be around 220/180.
Researchers say giraffes have adapted over the years to compensate for high blood pressure, including five discovered genetic mutations. A joint study between researchers at Harvard and the University of California-Los Angeles found that unlike other mammals, giraffes have a different electrical rhythm in their hearts.
“The ventricular-filling phase of the heartbeat is extended. This allows the heart to pump more blood with each stroke,” the researchers said.
Giraffes typically live around 25 years but have been known to live longer in captivity.