While older giraffe Pona died unexpectedly at The Living Desert, this “little” guy was the zoo’s most recent arrival after birth earlier this year. Courtesy of The Living Desert Facebook.

What killed Pona the giraffe?

He died unexpectedly overnight and experts at the Living Desert zoo east of Palm Springs are trying to figure out why.

The Living Desert in Palm Desert Friday mourned the death of the 16-year-old male giraffe who was born Sept. 22, 2000 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. But Pona had been with the Living Desert since November 2002.

Zoo officials said a necropsy will be conducted, though an exact cause of death could take months to determine, if at all.

“We cannot find the words to express our sadness about Pona’s unexpected passing,” Living Desert President and CEO Allen Monroe said. “He was a beloved member of our herd and was known for his gregarious personality. Our animal care team, staff, volunteers and guests will certainly miss Pona and his loss will be felt throughout the zoo. Pona was the first animal I met at the Living Desert, and he will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

At more than 18 feet tall, Pona was the tallest among the zoo’s seven- giraffe herd.

“Pona was an amazing ambassador for his species and an adored member of our zoo family,” RoxAnna Breitigan, zoo director of animal programs said. “We are honored to have had the opportunity to care for him and we know the public will join us in mourning this tragic loss.”


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