(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s (CMZoo) nearly 21-year-old female reticulated giraffe, Msichana, was humanely euthanized Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Msichana’s health quickly declined over the week even after months of treatment for her age-related issues, according to CMZoo. She would have turned 21 on Sept. 21, 2023.

  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says 'goodbye' to nearly 21-year-old giraffe
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says 'goodbye' to nearly 21-year-old giraffe
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says 'goodbye' to nearly 21-year-old giraffe

I would call it a once-in-a-lifetime relationship, and she was a once-in-a-lifetime giraffe.

Savannah Woods, animal keeper in African Rift Valley

Msichana was well-known among CMZoo members and online fans for her signature tongue-out appearance and role as a companion to newborn calves and new members of the herd. She was born at CMZoo in 2002, and had one male calf of her own, named Kipawa, in 2013.

CMZoo said Msichana was the herd’s welcome committee due to her composed and confident behavior. New giraffes found comfort in Msichana’s presence as they learned their way around the barn and yard by following her guidance. She was first to meet newborn calves who were ready to meet others in the herd – even having sleepovers with moms and calves in the barn’s nursery stall.

“She had a really special calm and nurturing demeanor. For calves and new giraffe, she made their first experience with us a safe one, and their relationships with her gave them the confidence to meet some of the more energetic giraffe in the herd,” said Woods. “We could always count on Msichana to act as a ‘nanny,’ showing calves that other giraffe are friends and helping new moms feel comfortable with their calves meeting other giraffe.”

When it came to husbandry training, Msichana was one of the best, stated CMZoo. She was an excellent learner, but, “Mishy Girl,” also taught her care team valuable lessons about training giraffe, which have shaped the Zoo’s training program.

“She showed us that we can’t train one giraffe and presume we know how to train all giraffe,” said Woods. “They’re individuals, and they need individual training and care programs. We owe a lot of our ability to read animals’ behaviors to what she taught us.”

Msichana was typically eager to train, but Woods also recalls being humbled by Msichana’s clear and assertive communication.

One day, a few guests were feeding her lettuce in the barn and after a little while, I asked her to come over to train with me. She turned her ears back toward me, clearly hearing me calling her, and then turned and looked at me. She was weighing her options. It was an easy decision and she turned right back to the guests and stayed with them. When they left, she came right over to train, but she let me know who was in charge, for sure. I love that she knew she could make that choice, and that she knew she could say ‘no.’

Savannah Woods, animal keeper in African Rift Valley

As a strong and social ambassador with guests, Msichana has helped hundreds of thousands of people make special connections with her species. Her legacy as a teacher in the herd will live on through the other giraffe and the guests who come and fall in love with her species, stated CMZoo.

The median life expectancy for giraffe in human care, per the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is nearly 16 years.