Posted on 03rd December 2021 by Media Relations
Zoo Keepers and the wider team at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are celebrating the life of Mutangi the Giraffe, the undisputed queen of the zoo, who passed away in late November.
Mutangi had not long celebrated her 31st birthday and was the oldest Giraffe in Australia and one of the oldest in the world.
Mutangi was a special animal, a great-grandmother in our herd, and leaves being an amazing legacy. She was the first calf to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo back in 1990 and during her time here reared 14 calves, many of which have gone to other zoos in Australia or NZ and had their own offspring. Two of her daughters remain in Dubbo and have since had calves of their own. An amazing 61 giraffes born in the region can be traced back to her, so her contribution to the regional Giraffe breeding program has been monumental.
Mutangi met and inspired thousands of guests through Giraffe encounters as well as numerous dignitaries and VIPs who visited the Zoo. Most importantly she has been a wonderful ambassador for wild giraffe, inspiring people to care and protect these amazing creatures.
Mutangi will be sadly missed but the team know she lived a long life and made such a positive impact for her species during her time on earth.
Some of her keepers have shared their memories of working with Mutangi and why she was so special to them.
I was in my second year of primary school when Mutangi was born. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be caring for one of the oldest giraffe in the world 30 years later!
Mutangi is one of those special, charismatic, zoo legends that you learn about when you first start at the Zoo. I had heard of her name when I first started at Taronga Zoo, Sydney in 2006. It was an absolute privilege to care for Mutangi in the later stages of her life. Mutangi was starting to show signs of arthritis when I first started working with her. We decided to manage her differently this past winter and house her separate from the herd so that she had lots of room to sit down at night and had her own food and the choice to be inside the house whenever she felt like it. Whilst Mutangi could socialise with the rest of the herd and touch them over the fence, she really thrived under her new VIP status and special care. Mutangi even participated in her own special training sessions where we would brush her because she was having trouble grooming herself. The new winter routine allowed us to spend a great amount of time with Mutangi and develop a bond with her. Every day she would greet us by sticking her head under the giraffe house roof, waiting for her breakfast. I would quite often have music playing in the house whilst cleaning the Giraffe bedding and Mutangi would come in and stand behind us keepers and just watch us whilst we cleaned the house. Our singing and dance moves never bothered her and I think she was quite partial to Metallica.
The Giraffe house is not the same without Mutangi and I deeply miss her. I was honoured to be with her at the end. I will never forget her contribution to Taronga. An amazing legacy that she has gifted us. She lives on through her offspring and the regional breeding program for Giraffe.
Her daughter Tuli is now the leader, but Mutangi will always be the queen.
It was such a privilege to work with Mutangi, though I struggle to call it work. Every moment I shared with Mutangi was so joyful and exhilarating, from her training sessions to just watching her doze in the sun with a foot-long string of drool coming out of her mouth, total relaxation. She had no shortage of sass that’s for sure, she would often twirl a small branch in her mouth over and over, it reminded me of a teenager chewing gum, just staring at you as you ask her to come over for a training session. I can admit it frustrated me sometimes, but it taught me some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt in my career. Paramount to them all, it taught me to appreciate the individuality of every animal I work with and through that appreciation form a bond that’s strong regardless of a perceived success or failure, but instead thrives simply from time invested in one another.
The world lost an amazing animal, one of the oldest giraffe in the world, a great-grandmother that through her lineage contributed 61 giraffes to the world. To me I lost a dear friend. The first name I’d say when I got to my section each morning, and the last I’d say when I left. The shadow standing over me as I raked and the sniffing on my hat when I turned my back for too long. Thanks for all the happy memories Mutangi.
Keep on jammin’ Queen. Keeper Leigh.
I had the honour of working with Mutungi for 13 years. I have seen her raise several calves herself, being a very attentive and protective mum, and be a support to her daughter and granddaughters with their calves.
In the first few years I helped care for Mutungi, she showed to have a very dominant personality, never minding showing how she felt about something. In her later years, as she passed into retirement, she allowed her cheeky side to emerge.
Mutungi was a sticky beak, who had to know what was going on and what you were doing at all times of the day.
As soon as the feed bin was opened you could guarantee she would be sticking her neck out and looking around the corner of the giraffe house to see what you were doing. Even when raking the yards you’d feel the wet of her slobber hit you as a breeze carried it from her, as she stood watching you.
It has been a pleasure to assist in taking care of you Mutungi, you have taught me so much. Rest easy now big girl.