Giraffe death devastating for community, Zoo Boise

Julie Albert's children feeding Julius Longfellow the giraffe back in 2010.

Questions rise about the future of Zoo Boise's African exhibit after the death of one of the zoo's two giraffes Thursday.

Julius Longfellow had to be put to sleep after he was found lying on the ground in pain.

Zoo Director Steve Burns said the veterinary staff spent 7 hours trying to help Julius, but in the end decision the humane thing to do was euthanize the giraffe.

It's a loss that has the zoo staff and the community devastated.

"They're so charasmatic. Everybody loves them so it hit particularly hard," said Burns.

Julius Longfellow lived at Zoo Boise for 8 years.

In that time he did a lot of good for his fellow animals

"In his 8 years here he probably raised more than $200,000 to help protect animals," said Burns.

Julius also touched a lot of lives.

Probably few more so than Julie Albert's and her 4th grade class of 2008 at Longfellow Elentary School in Boise. They helped raise $500 to bring Julius to Zoo Boise.

"I remember Steve Berns saying that $500 was the $500 that we needed to bring us a new giraffe," said Albert.

Thank you notes from the zoo for the donation and a well read and worn newspaper article still hang on Albert's 4th grade classroom door.

The moment Zoo Boise announced the name "Julius Longfellow" partly in honor of Albert's school is one she'll never forget.

"We were so excited and we cheered and we cried, and it was big," said Albert. "In my career that's probably the one thing that sticks out, that I contributed to a community by helping something in my heart."

The news of Julius' death wasn't easy for Albert to hear and it isn't easy on the zoo either. This is the third giraffe to die at Zoo Boise since the exhibit opened in 2008.

"People ask us you know, 'which animals at Zoo Boise could die?'" said Burns. "Well eventually all the animals because just like people everything eventually passes."

The two previous deaths both likely involved diseases that the animals had. Exactly what happened to Julius will be determined over the next several weeks.

However the zoo is not letting that stop them from getting another giraffe.

Director Burns said the new giraffe will be brought in as soon as possible. The main reason is that the animals are very social and don't do well without a companion. In this case, for Jabari, the remaining giraffe at Zoo Boise.

Now we saw a bunch of people ask on facebook if Zoo Boise will try to get April the giraffe's baby. The short answer is no.They want a giraffe sooner then that one would be old enough to leave it's mom.

But when they do decide to get one, history will repeat itself and Mrs. Albert's 4th grade class will be doing what ever they can to help.