Mid-last week, staff and volunteers were mourning the loss of 25yr.old Nathalie, who had died overnight.
Nathalie was the second giraffe to be born at Orana in Christchurch. She in turn gave birth to six calves, making a valuable contribution to the zoo-based giraffe breeding programme.
''She was a grand old lady and one of the nicest giraffes I have worked with. We were very fortunate that Nathalie was such a genuine gentle giant. She had a fantastic nature."
Rob says thousands of visitors had been given the chance to handfeed Nathalie over the years and she had been a ''fabulous'' ambassador for large animals: "She would have enthused many children to have a love of wildlife. She will be sadly missed."
Orana Park has offered visitors the chance to hand feed giraffes since 1982 and not surprisingly this experience continues to be ranked the No.1 visitor experience at the zoo. There is something about the stately beauty of giraffes that attracts people to these gracious animals. Visitors are simply in awe at the chance to interact with them and are intrigued with their long eyelashes. It is a real thrill to watch the giraffes extend their massive tongues to strip foliage from branches.
Orana's giraffe herd now stands at four animals, including one-year-old Fanana, who arrived at the park last month from Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo.