Lightning strike kills two giraffe at Lion Country Safari

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Credit: Lion Country Safari.

Lion Country Safari mourns the death of two members of the giraffe herd. The evening of Friday, May 3, as a severe, fast-moving storm rolled into the area, two giraffe were struck by lightning.

Lil, 10, and Jioni, 1, were found by keepers checking on animals; medical examination has revealed that the deaths were instantaneous.

In an effort to maintain naturalistic habitats featuring wide-open spaces similar to the savannah, giraffe are not normally confined to covered pastures or pens.

Lion Country said “staff and animal safety are of the utmost importance and while this is a tragic and aberrant incident, the park is continually reviewing safety and crisis protocols.”

Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from the center of a thunderstorm, even when there are no clouds overhead. About 100 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are recorded striking the Earth’s surface every second, with Florida experiencing over a million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes on average per year.

As a single species, giraffes are listed as “Vulnerable,” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and two of the subspecies (West African giraffe and Rothschild’s giraffe) are now listed as “Endangered.” Lion Country Safari is dedicated to the breeding of a number of rare or endangered species, including giraffe, through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. This conservation program helps to ensure the survival of selected wildlife species.

Lion Country Safari is the only drive-through safari in South Florida. Guests can see over 1000 animals on 320 acres. The park is also home to the largest herd of zebras on record in North America.

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