15-month-old Bea the giraffe is about to embark on the next phase of her life; she will be departing Zoo Knoxville soon to join a new herd where she will play an important role in the future of giraffe conservation.

Bea’s animal care staff have been working to prepare her for the move to another Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo in the next two weeks. Giraffe live in fission/fusion societies, which means they naturally move between herds, so both Bea and the herd here in Knoxville are expected to handle the move in stride.

“For us, it is a bittersweet moment when you have to say good-bye to an animal that you have nurtured and cared for since birth, but you are also proud that you have done your job well and are part of the bigger conservation effort to protect giraffes,” said Phil Colclough, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education.

The move is on the recommendation of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan, a collaborative partnership of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) working to protect the world’s tallest land mammal. The Species Survival Plan supports a healthy genetic population of giraffe in North America to help save them from extinction.\

Poaching and habitat destruction have had disastrous impacts on wild giraffe. Their populations have decreased by 40% over the last three decades, and they are now locally extinct in seven African countries. Giraffe have been reclassified as a species of “least concern” to “vulnerable to extinction”. Through coordinated efforts, modern zoos like Zoo Knoxville are supporting and providing expertise for critical conservation fieldwork and pioneering advanced veterinary techniques to provide giraffe at our zoos the highest quality of care and welfare.

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Knoxville’s largest attraction, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., and Thursday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. For more information visit zooknoxville.org.