PORTLAND The Oregon Zoo's reticulated giraffe Akeem was euthanized Saturday after vets said he was suffering and would not likely recover from an abrupt decline.

We are deeply saddened by the loss, said Oregon Zoo deputy director Chris Pfefferkorn. Akeem had been with us for more than 20 years. He was family.

Akeem s health declined abruptly and the cause had not been determined, but veterinarians said there was no sign of disease or traumatic injury. They said it may have simply been a case of old age.

He was nearly 25 years old, which was considered geriatric for a reticulated giraffe.

In the wild, giraffes usually live about 15 to 20 years, but can reach 25, the zoo's Hova Najarian said. In zoos, they can live to about 28.

Akeem, whose name means 'great one' in Swahili, was impressive, standing around 18 feet tall and weighing more than 2,200 pounds, he added. He was a popular resident of the zoo s Africa Savanna exhibit, where he sired three calves over the years.

Pfefferkorn said Akeem had a great day Friday, but keepers noted some stiffness in his gait that evening. Early Saturday morning, keepers found him lying still in a corner of the giraffe barn and it eventually became clear there was nothing they could do to help him.

We didn t want Akeem to suffer, Pfefferkorn said, so veterinarians and zoo officials made the difficult decision to euthanize him. As painful as it was for us, it was the right thing to do for him.

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