Maryland Zoo giraffe dies unexpectedly

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Photo via Maryland Zoo

A six-year-old reticulated giraffe named Willow died Monday at the Maryland Zoo. 

The zoo says Willow saw a decrease in appetite on Friday and was being treated, when her health deteriorated suddenly Monday. 

Willow was born at the Maryland Zoo, receiving her name during a public contest that drew more than 26,000 responses. 

"This is a tremendous loss and we know our members, guests, and friends feel it too. Since her birth, Willow has inspired joy and compassion in thousands of people. She grew from an awkward calf with ossicones that looked like pigtails to a beautiful icon of the Zoo and her vulnerable species. Willow’s presence at the Giraffe Feeding Station, in particular, is something everyone will miss," said the Maryland Zoo in a statement. "We could go on about Willow’s goofy personality and many life milestones and know those topics will be in conversations today in our barns and your homes. We know you understand how special Willow was and the significance of her loss." 

Willow was a reticulated giraffe, one of four giraffe subspecies suffering population decline.