Newest Clovis zoo giraffe dies

File photo Jay the giraffe was moved to Clovis’ Hillcrest Zoo on Oct. 10. He died Saturday, nearly five months after his arrival.

Kevin Wilson

Jay, a giraffe who had resided at the Hillcrest Park Zoo for approximately four months, died Saturday.

City Manager Joe Thomas said zoo staff found Jay down in his pen Saturday morning. Staff immediately called local veterinarians, who worked from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thomas said.

“After consulting with the veterinary school at Oklahoma State University … we felt the only alternative was to put him down,” Thomas said.

Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell referred inquiries to Zoo Director Herschel Arnold. Attempts to contact Arnold Saturday were unsuccessful.

Thomas wasn’t sure if the death was related to the weather, but said it was certainly a possibility.

“They’re just not geared for that kind of cold, even though we have shelter,” Thomas said. “To say (it was) absolutely (weather-related), I couldn’t say.”

According to, high temperatures for Tuesday through Friday were 11, 7, 17 and 41 degrees, respectively, with corresponding low temperatures of 0, -5, -8 and -1 degrees.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommends giraffes be placed inside if temperatures drop to less than 50 degrees.

If weather is at the center of Jay’s death, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Giraffes died in 2010 in Vancouver and Tulsa, Okla., with weather cited as a primary cause in each case, and more than 30 animals died over the weekend in a zoo in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Zookeeper Mark Yanotti had not been working over the weekend, but said the shelters for Jay and Jael, the zoo’s female giraffe, are heated.

Jay, once owned by Disney, was kept by the International Animal Exchange in Ohio before the city purchased him in October.

He was purchased for $30,500 — $25,000 for Jay and $5,500 for his transportation from IAE. The Citizen’s Bank of Clovis donated $15,000 towards the purchase, and the remaining cost was paid by the city.

He was purchased with the intention of becoming a breeding partner with Jael, a female giraffe.

Yanotti said he didn’t know whether Jay and Jael had mated. Their mating process, which can be seen through online videos, requires only a few seconds.

“It’s hard to say if they did or not,” Yanotti said. “There were many windows where noone saw them.”

A purchase contract covered the city if the giraffe died, but was only valid during Jay’s trip and his first 20 days at the zoo. Jay arrived Oct. 10. Thomas wasn’t aware of any other insurance on Jay.