MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — The Roosevelt Park Zoo has euthanized Mashama, its 21-year-old male giraffe.

According to a news release, it was a bittersweet day for all involved as no one wanted to see him go but also wanted to do what was best for Mashama.

Health issues grew increasingly worse prompted zoo staff to closely monitor the gentle giant’s quality of life.

Mashama had come to a point where the decision was needed regarding his future and what it would look like as he dealt with painful age-related issues, making it difficult for him to get around.

The zoo assembled a team of veterinarians, both local and even from out-of-state, along with a reproductive physiologist and endocrinologist for the procedure.

As the zoo was working out the various logistics for the procedure, it also wanted to focus on research that could go to help other giraffes in the future.

Zoo staff, local veterinarians, and the guests from out of town all gathered just before sunrise for a brief meeting to make certain that everything was in place and ready to go.

As darkness began to fade, Mashama’s keepers shifted him outside and began a training session, as they had done hundreds of times before.

Because of the training, the anesthesia medication was able to be injected by hand, which is a part of the normal training routine to allow staff to give annual vaccinations as opposed to utilizing a tranquilizer dart.

This was exponentially less stressful for both the animals and their keepers. This was Mashama’s first immobilization in the 19 years he resided at the Roosevelt Park Zoo.

As for the immobilization, it took a little longer than anticipated, when he went down. It was as if he was just sitting down.

He was right by the gate and leaned against it as he rested his head on the top bar of the rail fence.

The zoo staff couldn’t have asked for anything better.

As part of the planning process, the zoo reached out to professionals in the field that had requested data for various projects associated with giraffes.

While euthanasia is always a last resort, it was inevitable. So, the zoo wanted to make sure the loss could potentially help other giraffes.

Once he was immobilized, the reproductive physiologist was able to collect reproductive material along with multiple samples of blood for a variety of purposes.

Following Mashama’s euthanasia, he was moved off the exhibit to another location so the veterinarian team could conduct the postmortem exam.

The zoo does this for every animal that passes away in the zoo, but this was a rare opportunity to gather data for a wide range of projects.

X-rays were taken of Mashama’s feet, joints, head, and anything else that was requested or was thought to be helpful in the future.

The specialists used a special ultra-sound designed to measure the thickness of the fat layer beneath his hide in various locations.

After Wednesday, research stated that by measuring the fat layer and comparing it to the estimated body score, future scoring will become more scientifically accurate. This will help future animals at the zoo immensely.

Body measurements were requested and taken for an out-of-state animal search and rescue that is working on a portable tripod and bi-pod systems to help lift giraffes and get them on their feet.

All of this and more will serve to increase the knowledge of giraffes and help improve how to manage and care for giraffes in the future.

Mashama was born at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, IL on Aug. 29, 2001, and came to the Roosevelt Park Zoo in May 2003.

While here, Mashama sired nine calves with Kianga, the 22-year-old female.

With Mashama gone, Kianga will remain at the zoo with Amani, their last calf born last fall. It is yet to be determined whether he was able to sire a 10th calf, but the zoo should know for sure next year.

Wednesday was a great example of people working together for a common cause and would not have been possible without the hard work of the zoo staff, the local veterinarians that volunteered their time, the park’s maintenance team, and especially the visiting professionals that made the trip to Minot to support the staff during this difficult procedure.

Mashama will be missed, but in his loss, the zoo feels optimistic about all the information he provided that will help serve giraffes around the world for generations to come.