Two giraffes killed by 'billion-to-one' lightning strike at Florida wildlife park

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 6:48 PM CDT
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Two giraffes were fatally struck by lightning in a "billion-to-one" tragedy at a Florida wildlife park.

The deadly incident happened May 3, killing 10-year-old female Lily and year-old male Jioni, according to Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, about 20 miles west of West Palm Beach. The facility, which had 20 giraffes before the incident, describes itself as an amusement park and drive-thru safari.

We are deeply saddened to share the passing of two of our giraffe due to a lightning strike. Lily and Jioni were in the...

Posted by Lion Country Safari on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Lily was between 14 feet to 16 feet tall, while Jioni was between 10 feet and 12 feet, according to Lion Country Safari spokeswoman Haley Passeser. The giraffes were not related, the park says.

"Recent pathology results confirm that the giraffes did pass as a result of the lightning and that the manner of their passing was instantaneous," the park said Tuesday in a statement.

There are "numerous shelters in the multiacre habitat, if they choose to use them." But, the park says, there is no way to force any of the giraffes to use them during a severe storm.

"It's like a billion-to-one chance this happened to us and our poor giraffes, but we are looking at anything we can to improve upon" safeguards for the animals, Passeser told NBC News.

No park staff actually witnessed the fatal lighting strike. It's not clear if the animals were killed by two separate bolts or perhaps one that hit the ground near Lily and Jioni, who were found close to each other, according to Passeser.

Giraffes tend to live between 20 to 25 years, Passeser said, though animal rights activists claim the massive mammals have much shorter lifespans in captivity.

"The keepers and our whole team were understandably devastated by this sudden and tragic loss; out of respect for their mourning and the pending pathology results, we waited to share this information," according to the safari's statement.

"We continue to mourn our two incredibly lovely and charismatic giraffes; they will both be sorely missed."

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