Heartbreak at The Living Desert as Giraffe Passes Away Unexpectedly

Heartbreak at The Living Desert as Giraffe Passes Away Unexpectedly


Palm Desert, CA

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is heartbroken to share that Pona, one of our beloved male giraffes, passed away unexpectedly overnight. The Living Desert’s animal care staff and experts will work to conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) to determine Pona’s cause of death. It could be months before all tests and evaluations are finalized, but an exact cause of death may never be known for sure.

“We cannot find the words to express our sadness about Pona’s unexpected passing. He was a beloved member of our herd and was known for his gregarious personality. Our animal care team, staff, volunteers and guests will certainly miss Pona and his loss will be felt throughout the zoo” said Allen Monroe, President/CEO of The Living Desert. “Pona was the first animal I met at The Living Desert, and he will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

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Pona was born September 22, 2000 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and came to The Living Desert November 2, 2002. He was the zoo’s tallest giraffe, standing at over 18’ tall and weighing just over 2,000 pounds.

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“Pona was an amazing ambassador for his species and an adored member of our zoo family,” said RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Programs. “We are honored to have had the opportunity to care for him and we know the public will join us in mourning this tragic loss.”

The Living Desert is home to a herd of seven giraffe. Currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, giraffe populations have declined up to 40% over the last 30 years. Today, there are fewer than 98,000 giraffe in the wild. Native to southern and eastern Africa, major threats to giraffe population is habitat loss and fragmentation, civil unrest, and ecological changes.