Death Of Giraffe, Bobo, Sparks Cry For Change From Animal Advocates

MANORVILLE, NY — The death of a popular giraffe at a Long Island game farm recently has left some animal advocates crying out for change.

In early October, the staff at the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville said that they were devastated to learn that Bobo, a beloved giraffe who lived at the facility, had died suddenly.

“Long Island Game Farm is sad to announce the sudden passing of their beloved giraffe, Bobo,” a release said. “Bobo passed away unexpectedly on the morning of October 2 from heart failure, according to the game farm’s veterinarian, Dr. Benjamin Haar. The three-year-old giraffe had been under routine care for parasites, which is common in giraffes. A necropsy examination is being coordinated, and results may take several months. “

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Results of that examination are still pending as of this week.

Long Island Game Farm President Melinda Novak added: “We are so heartbroken. We loved Bobo beyond measure, and he was such a fixture at the park. We had been working hard to create a permanent home for him here. Bobo will be missed terribly.”

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John Di Leonardo, president and executive director of Humane Long Island and an anthrozoologist and wildlife rehabilitator, said he believes the giraffe should not have been kept at the facility, or at any similar farm.

“In the wild, Bobo the giraffe would have roamed a range of up to 100 square miles of African grasslands and open woodlands, shared a complex social life with a herd of his own species for as long as 25 years, and spent many hours of the day and night browsing for leaves, shoots and fruits from tall trees,” Di Leonardo said. “But at the Long Island Game Farm, only four miles from my suburban apartment complex, Bobo died — alone — at only 3 years old. Abducted from his family and leased for public interactions, Bobo was confined to a cramped enclosure without any other giraffes or even a tree.”

He added that he believes: “In roadside zoos, like the Long Island Game Farm and White Post Farm, giraffes are confined to a tiny fraction of their natural range and denied opportunities to engage in their most basic behaviors, including using their fantastically long tongues to explore the world in search of food. This type of chronic deprivation can lead to abnormal behaviors that are clear indications of psychological distress and frustration, including abnormal pacing and repetitive, compulsive tongue movements, as have been observed by both Bobo and Clifford — the giraffe the Long Island Game Farm rented before him.”

Di Leonardo also questioned another giraffe on Long Island.

“In the cruelest of ironies, baby Savannah — who was born into a lifetime of confinement at White Post Farm this year — will never know the African savannah, and likely won’t even ever know what it is like to browse from a natural tree. Like Bobo, she is fed an unnatural diet of lettuce, carrots and commercially compounded pellets, deprived of everything she needs to thrive in a prison less than .01 percent of the minimum home range size of a free-living giraffe. Since giraffes cannot maintain their body heat below 50 degree F, keeping giraffes in New York winters is particularly cruel, as they must be confined indoors for the duration of the season.”

The White Post Animal Farm of Melville, when asked for a response to Di Leonardo’s claims, said, “No comment.”

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Di Leonardo continued: “Roadside zoos like White Post and the Long Island Game Farm know that children and parents would run kicking and screaming if they knew the truth about captivity, so they use buzzwords like ‘conservation’ to distract their patrons; however, none of the animals confined at roadside zoos will ever be released to the wild. In fact, studies show the ‘selfies’ and ‘close encounters’ hawked at these facilities actually undermine legitimate conservation efforts by misleading people into thinking that wild populations are not imperiled, making them less likely to donate to conservation.”

The Long Island Game Farm responded to Di Leonardo’s remarks. “In response to Mr. Di Leonardo’s opinion on zoos, we’d like to express that everyone at Long Island Game Farm was saddened by the sudden loss of Bobo, and it is disheartening when we see animal rights extremists exploiting it to further their own agenda.”

The LIGF added: “We understand Mr. Di Leonardo doesn’t like zoos, but millions of people do, and for many of them zoos are the only opportunity they have to see giraffes and other animals up close. We stand by our care for Bobo and all of our animals, and we look forward to continuing to share our animals with the thousands of New York families who visit us every year.”

In addition, the LIGF said: “The majority of the animals at Long Island Game Farm have been rescued, rehabilitated, or re-homed. We never take animals directly from the wild — we work within the zoo community across the country and often take in animals where others have a surplus or are unable to care for them. Bobo was well cared for and beloved at the game farm, and we had been working to build a heated giraffe house to keep Bobo and another male giraffe at the farm year-round. He is terribly missed.”

Long Island Game Farm added that the facility is a member of the Zoological Association of America.

“The game farm also carries USDA Aphis Animal Welfare Act, Suffolk County Health Department Petting Zoo, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Dangerous Animal licenses,” a statement read. “Our dedicated staff and volunteers regularly attend training courses through a variety of organizations like San Diego Wildlife Academy, and American Association of Zookeepers, as well as the non-profit Zoological Association of America. We hold ourselves to highest standards of animal care, and aim to educate the public on the various wildlife species that call the game farm home.”

The staff mourned Bobo’s loss this month.

“Bobo was such an important member of our zoo family,” game farm director Greg Drossel said. “His presence created so many lasting memories, not only for the staff, but for all the visitors he touched with his gentle nature.”

More information will be shared in the coming months when necropsy results are finalized, the Long Island Game Farm said.

Bobo’s death came soon after he was the star at a recent fundraiser meant to facilitate the creation of a year-round giraffe house.

A “Bon Voyage” party was held in September for the popular member of the Long Island Game Farm family, who was slated to leave for the cold winter months and head to a warmer climate.

But the plan was that Bobo the Giraffe would be back soon, and able to live year-round at the farm.
The fundraising event at the Long Island Game Farm was presented by the Foundation for Wildlife Sustainability, Inc., the game farm’s new non-profit arm.

Funds from the event were garnered to support the construction of a heated and air-conditioned giraffe house large enough to accommodate two giraffes, and offer year-round public programming to raise awareness of the endangered species.

“It has long been a dream of ours to host giraffes year-round at the Long Island Game Farm,” Novak said. “To further our goal of connecting people to wildlife, a year round giraffe house will allow us space to keep two giraffes comfortably and present programming that will educate the public on these gentle giants, which are also an endangered species. Bobo the Giraffe is one of our most popular residents in the summer months, and we hope his loyal fans will join us in sending him off for the season to warmer climates in South Carolina. Perhaps next year, he will be a permanent resident of the game farm.”

Sadly now, that day will not come for Bobo; his death leaves hearts broken across Long Island amongst his many fans, young and old.

Long Island Game Farm representative said they also a supporter of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s efforts to secure a future for all giraffe populations in the wild; the game farm also donated a portion of ticket sales that week to the nonprofit organization, organizers of the event said.

Di Leonardo said he’d like to see change.

“If the Long Island Game Farm cares about giraffes, it will stop renting and shipping them like a parcel over hundreds of miles to an inappropriate climate and commit to using the newfound space to expand an existing enclosure for one of its many other cramped animals. And if White Post cares about giraffes, it will commit to a phase-out of its existing population and stop breeding these majestic animals into lifetimes of captivity,” he said.

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