Skip to Content
Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

Giraffe, leopard to leave Santa Barbara Zoo

sbzoo wyatt and amirah
Santa Barbara Zoo
Masai giraffe Amirah and Amur leopard Wyatt are headed to new zoos as part of a species survival plan

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A giraffe and leopard will be leaving the Santa Barbara Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan.

The zoo's two-year-old female Masai giraffe, Amirah, is headed to the Sacramento Zoo. Amirah was born in 2018 to a pair of giraffes at the zoo.

Masai giraffe Amirah, as an adolescent pictured with her mother, Audrey

Giraffe's typically become independent around two years old, zoo representatives said. Amirah is not yet mature enough to breed, but she will have a breeding recommendation at her new home.

Amirah's father, Michael, is the most "genetically valuable Masai giraffe in the AZA North America population," the zoo said in a press release. Each one of his calves serves an important role in the Species Survival Plan, which will help maintain genetic diversity in the population.

“Since Michael’s genes are the most valuable in North America, it’s critical for the genetic diversity of the AZA population that he continues to sire offspring, which is why we move calves to other zoos to make room for more offspring,” said Rachel Ritchason, Director of Animal Collections at the Santa Barbara Zoo. 

Although Amirah will be leaving, the Santa Barbara Zoo is also expecting the birth of two giraffe calves. One of the calves is expected to arrive in April to mother Adia, a second calf is due in July to mother Audrey. Michael is the father to both calves.

Amirah's three siblings - born to Michael and Audrey - have also moved to other zoos including the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, the Oregon Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston.

Masai giraffes are currently endangered, primarily due to poaching and loss of habitat. Their population has fallen by nearly half in the last 30 years.

Amirah's last day in Santa Barbara is on Tuesday, March 10.

Amur leopard Wyatt is headed to Indiana after unsuccessful breeding attempts with a female at the zoo

One leopard leaving, another on its way

In addition to the Masai giraffe's departure, a seven-year-old male Amur leopard is also heading for a new home.

Wyatt, the zoo's male Amur leopard, is set to depart to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana on Tuesday.

Wyatt was born at the Denver Zoo has called the Santa Barbara Zoo home since 2013. Wyatt has been paired with a female Amur leopard named Ajax for the last four years.

The zoo has been unsuccessful in breeding the two, despite repeated efforts.

Wyatt will be paired with a different female leopard in Indiana and the Santa Barbara Zoo will welcome a new male leopard from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

9-year-old Kasha is set to join the zoo after a 30-day quarantine period. The zoo hopes Kasha and Ajax will be successful in procreating. Kasha has already sired two litters at his previous zoo.

Amur leopards are the most endangered big cats in the world, with fewer than 40 individuals left in the wild. Ajax has an incredibly important role in keeping the species alive due to her genetics which are unseen in other cats in North America.

"Ajax has an important role of diversifying the gene pool of Amur leopards in North America for the overall health of the population,” Ritchason said. “It’s important for her to breed and pass on her genes.”

Both Wyatt and Amirah are set to depart the zoo on Tuesday, March 10. The public is encouraged to visit and say farewell.

Article Topic Follows: Animals

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Travis Schlepp

Travis Schlepp is the Digital Content Director for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Travis, click here.


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content