KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One of Zoo Knoxville’s geriatric giraffes has been placed under hospice care because of his declining health.

The 19-year-old bull giraffe, Jumbe, is one of the oldest giraffes in the United States, according to the zoo. The decision to place him under hospice care was made as he is facing increasing difficulty with mobility due to his advanced age.

The zoo said that last year he began showing signs of pain with movement. Up to this point, his caretakers and a veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine have been successfully managing his pain with medication, but his dosage has reached the maximum of what can safely be administered and there are no further treatment options.

“Many of our guests know him from being the one that is always at the… at the feeding platform, ready to eat at any moment. Made lots of friends with lots of guests over the years,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care, conservation and education said.

With his advanced age and signs, Colclough explained that the team is working around the clock to monitor his symptoms and ensure that he is able to move around and rest. While Jumbe is still moving around, he has shown some signs of pain with getting around which is understandable given his age according to Colclough.

“We’re assessing this situation, again, as every single day. Every single hour of every single day, and when the time comes, we will know when that time is. This could be weeks, this could be days. We just don’t know, it just depends on what we’re observing, what our vets are seeing, and we will do the right thing by Jumbe when the time comes.” Colclough said.

Jumbe came to the zoo in 2011 from the recommendation of the Giraffe Species Survival plan, which is a collaborative effort of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure a genetically healthy and protected population of giraffe remain in human care as wild populations are declining and endangered according to the zoo.

Since coming to Zoo Knoxville, the zoo said he has sired two offspring with Frances. Bea, a female who was born in 2019, and Jumble Junior (J.J.), a male born in 2020 who still resides at Zoo Knoxville. In 2020, the zoo said that Bea would be leaving the zoo to join a new herd.

“We have a responsibility to our animals to make sure we provide them with the optimal quality of life from birth to death,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care, conservation and education.  “With that responsibility comes days when we have to make difficult but compassionate decisions such as this.  We will carefully weigh all considerations to make the right decision at the right time, but ultimately our focus is to let Jumbe leave this world with dignity and surrounded by those who cared most for him.”