It is with great sadness that we share the passing of one of the mainstays of our Barnyard area, Clarabelle the African pygmy goat. At 13 years old, she was well into the median life expectancy for her species.
Clarabelle came to us in September 2008 as a three-month-old kid and lived in our now-Barnyard area in Paws On ever since, sharing the space over the years with an array of other goats, alpacas, tortoises, lizards, armadillos, Patagonian cavies, emus and deer.
Since 2014, we had been monitoring and treating Clarabelle for a mild neurological condition. After running diagnostics, we were unable to find a cause of these issues but treated her with medications to control her seizures so that she could continue to live a full life. Over the years, we had also monitored her increasingly severe arthritis.
Recently, Clarabelle became noticeably less active, and we began doing daily quality of life assessments (QLA) on her to evaluate her comfort based on ongoing health issues, appetite, behavior, signs of discomfort, mobility and more.
“Over the last few weeks, her difficulty with mobility had significantly worsened,” said Dr. Trevor Zachariah, the Zoo’s director of veterinary programs. “Clarabelle was showing discomfort in lying down or getting up.”
After much discussion between animal care staff and veterinary staff, it was decided that the most compassionate decision was euthanasia to keep Clarabelle from future suffering. While this decision is very difficult for staff, volunteers and guests alike, we say goodbye to Clarabelle knowing that we have made the best decision for her at the right time, which is what caring for animals is all about.
We will greatly miss Clarabelle’s goofy antics in the Barnyard. According to her keepers, she was called “Kooky Clarabelle” as a tribute to her huge personality and one-of-a-kind demeanor. She was also known for having the best beard in the whole Zoo!
“You could never meet another like her,” said Em Waitt, one of Clarabelle’s keepers. “Her personality shined way beyond her small size.”
Keepers note that in her younger years, Clarabelle was much closer to the alpacas than to the other goats. You’d frequently see her spending her time with alpacas Rosie and Carletta. She would stand and rub her head on their necks, which they seemed to enjoy. “She would also try to be the “top alpaca” and boss them around since she was at the bottom in the goat herd. It was funny to watch this little goat try to be the boss of much bigger animals,” said Em.
You may have noticed that it’s been a tough few weeks for us as some of our favorite older animals have passed. It’s important to us to be transparent with you and give you a look at the full scope of animal care at the Zoo, which sees the highs of animal births and, inevitably, the lows of saying goodbye. We take pride in giving our animals as many comfortable years as possible, but this also comes with the responsibility of understanding when our care is no longer serving our animals and the difficult, but compassionate decision to say goodbye must be made.