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Rosita the alpaca

We will miss Rosita dearly.

We are saddened to share that the tough, but compassionate decision was made to euthanize our longtime Barnyard resident Rosita the alpaca after her quality of life recently took a significant downturn.

At 19 years old, Rosita was well within the median life expectancy for her species and had lived at the Zoo since 2009. She lived with several incurable conditions with limited treatments, including kidney disease and arthritis. Rosita also experienced dental issues, which we cared for by performing dental trimmings and changing how her food was presented (such as chopping her hay more finely).

Kidney disease is difficult to treat in alpacas, according to Dr. Trevor Zachariah, one of the Zoo’s veterinarians. “Their diets are already low in protein and their digestive systems are hard to manipulate with diets,” said Dr. Zachariah. “Also, because of their digestive systems, medications are not absorbed in the same way a cat or dog would.” For the past two years, our animal care team had been treating Rosita’s arthritis with medication and nutritional supplements. All animal residents at our Zoo who are geriatric or experiencing health issues are given regular quality of life assessments. An animal care team looks at objective measures like the resident’s hygiene, mobility, appetite and more, to prevent future suffering.

Once Rosita began showing signs of discomfort and a dramatic behavior change, our animal care team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her.

Rosita was a hit with guests, volunteers and staff as soon as she joined our Zoo in 2009. The sweet alpaca would walk up quietly right next to you to ask for neck scratches, said Animal Ambassador keeper Erin Corry.

Over the years, Rosita, or Rosie as her keepers often called her, shared her Barnyard home with a number of animals, including tortoises, chickens, armadillos and goats. When our newest goat foursome arrived at the Zoo, Rosita walked up to them with no hesitation, Erin said – a good indication she would have no problem keeping the young ones in line if needed.

“Guests would sometimes be nervous that she might spit at them, but she never did – she reserved that for the goats when they got too close to her personal space!” Erin said.

Rosita the alpaca

Another fond memory for guests, staff and volunteers alike: sprinkler time in the Barnyard. Rosita loved the sprinkler, said Animal Ambassador keeper Bryan Rodriguez. “She enjoyed walking through the water and would stand over the hose to keep cool.”

Animal Ambassador keeper Em Waitt described Rosita as a “gentle soul” who loved joining in on Barnyard birthday celebrations – even if they weren’t her own.

“If she saw veggies – she was ready,” Em said.

New Animal Ambassador keepers knew they were accepted once Rosita came over for some attention. She’d demand full body rubs from her favorites!

“She was a special girl, and she will be greatly missed,” Em said.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to an animal resident. We ask that you please keep our Barnyard volunteers and Animal Ambassador keepers in your thoughts at this time.