Park officials said they waited six weeks for pathology test results before announcing the May 3 deaths.
LOXAHATCHEE − Two giraffes at Lion Country Safari were struck by lightning and died six weeks ago, officials at the Loxahatchee nature park confirmed Tuesday.
Officials received pathology reports saying that Lily, a 10-year-old female, and Jioni, a 1-year-old male, died instantaneously after being struck on the evening of May 3, said Haley Passeser, a spokeswoman for Lion County Safari.
The park did not release the news immediately after the incident because officials wanted to confirm the pathology tests, she said, and also to give keepers time to grieve.
“It’s been very solemn. There’s been a lot of tears,” Passeser said.
No other employees or animals were injured.
Lion Country Safari, a drive-through safari attraction about 20 miles west of West Palm Beach, currently has 18 giraffes who roam in a 25-acre preserve, foraging and enjoying the space, Passeser said. There are shelters and nighttime housing in the preserve, but the animals are not forced to enter.
“At the end of the day, we cannot make a several-thousand-pound animal go where they don’t want to,” Passeser said.
Pathology tests allow zoos to examine multiple factors when an animal dies, Passeser said. This includes a necropsy, the animal version of an autopsy.
Results can take weeks to return, such as this one did, she said.
Lion Country Safari’s giraffes are looked after primarily by two or three keepers, although its entire staff of keepers is cross-trained, Passeser said. Most of the 18 giraffes are adults, with the exception of a 2-year-old and two 1-year-olds. Giraffes typically live about 20 to 25 years in captivity and slightly less in the wild.
Passeser said both giraffes were born at Lion Country Safari and were “very charismatic.” Lily was a “great mom” who gave birth to a calf or two during her life, while Jioni was “outgoing, brave” and an overall friendly “little guy,” she said.
“These keepers do pour their heart and soul into this,” Passeser said. “To lose these animals they are caring for every day is truly devastating for them.”