'Billion to One' Lightning Strike Kills 2 Giraffes

Florida park says it couldn't force them to seek shelter
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2019 3:33 AM CDT
'Billion to One' Lightning Strike Kills 2 Giraffes
Giraffes check cars for treats at Lion Country Safari.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Lightning usually strikes the tallest object in the area. Unfortunately for two giraffes at a Florida wildlife park, it was apparently them. Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee says 10-year-old female Lily and Jioni, a 1-year-old male, were killed instantly by lightning during a storm early last month. The older giraffe was between 14 and 16 feet tall. The park says there are numerous shelters in the habitat that the giraffes can access during a storm "if they choose to use them," but they can't force the animals into them. "It's like a billion-to-one chance this happened to us and our poor giraffes," park spokeswoman Haley Passeser tells NBC. Authorities say they're not sure whether the two giraffes, who weren't related, were killed by single lightning strike or two separate strikes.

The drive-through safari park has 16 remaining giraffes. "We do try to provide them a lot of choice," Passeser says. "If they don't choose to seek shelter, there isn't a lot we can do to encourage them to." The park, which has a lightning detection system, says it is reviewing safety procedures. "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," the park said in a Facebook post. "We continue to mourn our two incredibly lovely and charismatic (giraffes)." (In 2010, a lightning strike killed a TV star giraffe in South Africa.)

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