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Mama giraffe found dead

Jael, mother of Jerrica, had lived at Clovis' zoo since 2002.

Jael the Rothschild's giraffe, one of the Clovis zoo's most popular attractions, was found dead in her enclosure on Saturday, city officials said.

Jael, 22, was discovered when zoo workers came in at 8 Saturday morning, curator Stephanie Chavez said. There was no obvious sign of trauma.

"I think it was just her age," Chavez said.

Jael had not been sick, Chavez said.

The zoo was closed on Saturday so that a necropsy could be performed that could help determine the cause of death. Results are expected in two or three days.

Jael was 16 months old when she arrived at Hillcrest Park Zoo from White's Animal Kingdom in Carlsbad in November 2002, according to newspaper archives.

She quickly became one of the zoo visitors' most talked-about attractions.

In 2005, she attracted attention when she was reluctant to move to a larger enclosure from her original space next to the zoo's bear.

"She just flat refuses to move," Zoo Director Herschel Arnold said at the time. "She must remember the trailer from the last time she moved."

Jael eventually made the transition but soon became lonely, zoo workers said. So they pared her with Mose, an African pygmy goat. They became fast friends.

They played and ate together, though Mose would sometimes push his 15-feet-tall roommate aside if he felt he wasn't getting enough food. "She (Jael) is real gentle with him," zookeeper Kathy Yannotti said at the time.

In October 2010, the zoo acquired a male giraffe, Jay, who mated with Jael.

Baby Jerrica was born at Hillcrest Park Zoo on Jan. 25, 2012. She shared an enclosure near the zoo's front entrance with her mother, though Jay died before Jerrica's birth.

Chavez said Saturday that Jerrica "is OK right now. She's still eating, still drinking, still doing normal things."

Chavez said Rothschild's giraffes, named for zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, usually live 20 to 25 years in captivity.

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