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A Baird's tapir

We’re heartbroken to share that we made the difficult decision to euthanize our 30-year-old female Baird’s tapir, Josie. This was the final of many compassionate decisions made by Josie’s animal care team over the years to ensure she lived a long and comfortable life with us. 

“I’m so proud of the care so many keepers have given here over her 30 years of life,” said Curator of Animals Kim Castrucci. “She was so loved and will continue to be forever. The Zoo won’t be the same without her.” 

Josie was the second oldest female Baird’s tapir in a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It was a privilege to provide her with the greatest possible care from her youth to her “golden years.” 

In those later years, Josie developed several health issues that necessitated our animal care team to provide regular assessments to ensure her quality of life. Our animal care team monitors all our animal residents who are geriatric or living with ongoing health ailments. 

In 2017, Josie’s left eye was removed after it lost vision following the development of a severe ulcer. Earlier this year, a similar ulcer developed in her remaining eye. Thanks to intensive care from her keepers and veterinarians along with consultations from an animal ophthalmologist, her eye showed significant improvement.  

More recently, Josie began showing significant mobility issues. Despite medication to make her more comfortable, our normally active Josie was still struggling to stand and move her back legs. The decision was made to euthanize her to prevent future suffering.  

Josie was one of just a few animal residents who had called our Zoo home since our opening year, 1994. We watched her grow into an adult tapir, become a mom (and now a great grandma), and bring so much joy to our keepers, volunteers and guests over the years.  

“It was Josie’s world and all of us are just livin’ in it. She was an intelligent tapir who knew exactly what to do to get her way,” said Rainforest Revealed Area Supervisor Sidnee Santana-Mellor. “Whether it was letting other tapirs know that she was still the boss around the tapir complex or demanding snacks by stomping her foot.” 

Kim started working with Josie after joining the Zoo in 2016.  

“Josie was simply the best, I always called her my number one lady,” Kim said. “She was the animal I looked forward to seeing every day and my fellow keepers always knew they could find me giving Josie an extra snack or two in my spare time.” 

She taught many new keepers – and a few seasoned keepers – valuable lessons in caring for their animal residents. Recently, Josie voluntarily received daily eye drops along with other medications to help her heal and be comfortable.  

“She was an incredible animal to train and that’s one of the biggest reasons she lived such a long life, she truly embodies what all keepers hope for in an animal that participates in their own health care,” Sidnee said.