Mourning Bobo

LI Game Farm giraffe dies


Few would argue that Bobo’s death on Oct. 2, 2023 was sad.  Many people have expressed strong feelings, and raised questions, about the circumstances surrounding the giraffe’s death.

In the wake of published reports citing a USDA investigation into factors contributing to Bobo’s death, John Di Leondardo, president of Humane Long Island, has called Long Island Game Farm negligent in its care of the animal.

Melinda Novak, president of LIGF, and Greg Drossel, LIGF director, dispute allegations of failing to provide adequate food and temperature in its enclosure.  They assert that while he was in their care Bobo was being fed the diet recommended by his owners, and that his heart was too small for his body and contributed to his death, a condition they said could only be identified through a necropsy. 

In an effort to better understand the issues The Tide has filed a Freedom of Information request with the USDA for a copy of its findings; as of today, that request is still pending.

But while interpretation of the details is in dispute, one thing both sides can agree on is that it shouldn’t happen again. 

Bobo was one of 15 giraffes to die in this country in 2023, according to People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  A PETA fact sheet titled “Captive Giraffes—Premature Deaths in the United States,” lists 290 giraffe deaths in American zoos since Feb. 17, 2000; 15 of them, including Bobo and another at a different Long Island facility, died in 2023.  All died before age 25 or under unusual circumstances like fire or post-partum following the birth of a stillborn calf.

On this fact sheet, PETA notes, “The USDA issued LIGF a critical citation after a 3 year old male giraffe died. The inspection noted that the necropsy found ‘a serious atrophy of fat’ and that ‘such findings are associated with death in giraffes due to energy deficient diet and colder temperatures.’”

In the wild, giraffes are social animals that live in groups of up to 50, although, unlike herding animals like bison, they are independent and may leave the group at any time.

With a life expectancy of about 20 years, the adult males can easily reach a height of 18 feet and a weight up to 4,600 pounds.  They live in grasslands and wooded areas in Africa and spend most of each day traveling in search of food.  An adult can eat up to 75 pounds of vegetation each day, most often acacia leaves they consume from trees and accessed by their long necks, which can reach 6 feet. They belong to a class of mammals called ruminants, whose characteristics include a multi-chambered stomach in which consumed vegetation is regurgitated and chewed again as it is digested.

In confined spaces like zoos, giraffes may not have access to the space to roam or the variety of trees that would be available in the wild and may eat grass on which feces containing parasites called nematodes has been deposited.  The parasites can infiltrate the giraffe’s body through ingestion of the grass, a situation unlikely to occur among those roaming freely across the savannah. 

Melinda Novak and Greg Drossel attribute some of Bobo’s deterioration to parasites that were resistant to treatment they sought, but said the real cause was the underlying issue with his heart.  A copy of the necropsy report was not provided for this story.

Humans have captured and secured wild animals for amusement at least as far back as the Romans.  Over time, the argument has been made that keeping them in zoos offers an opportunity to see live exotic creatures, educate children, or enrich research and academic advancement.  In some cases, it is to protect an endangered species from possible extinction.

Thanks to loss of habitat, climate change and poaching, giraffes are fighting for survival.  In some poor countries, they are hunted for their meat. And the demand for them as exhibits in zoos sustains a market that is not always legal or humane.


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