Gemina, the giraffe with the crooked neck, dies at 21

Times Staff Writer

Gemina, a much-visited Baringo giraffe who held her head high on a mysteriously crooked neck, has died at the Santa Barbara Zoo. She was 21.

“She was the most famous individual we had,” said Alan Varsik, the zoo’s director of animal programs and conservation. “She’s been a part of Santa Barbara for a long time.”

Gemina’s most recent brush with fame was a 2006 appearance on “The Miracle Workers,” an ABC reality show that devoted an episode to obtaining medical help for a 3-year-old with severe scoliosis. Watching Gemina at the zoo, the toddler remarked that the giraffe “has a bump like me.”


Born without any apparent deformity at San Diego Wild Animal Park, Gemina moved to Santa Barbara when she was a year old.

When she was 3, her neck bones started to jut out in a way that had been last documented in a giraffe in 1902.

Zoo visitors asked about her neck all the time, but providing answers was a tall order. X-rays showed vertebrae that appeared fused, but the zoo’s scientific staff could find no reason for it. When Gemina was 2, a worker saw her tumble end over end, but no injury was detected at the time.

The 12-foot-tall leaf-eater lived a normal life, Varsik said. In 1991, she gave birth, but her calf died of pneumonia.

Last July, she was serenaded by children on her 21st birthday, and a video of the occasion was posted on the zoo’s website. She had outlived most giraffes by six years.

Over the last two weeks, Gemina stopped eating and her health deteriorated. Old age -- not her zigzag neck -- was taking its toll, Varsik said. Results of a necropsy are pending.


She was euthanized Wednesday.

“We did everything we could, but the time came when we had to make the humane decision,” Varsik said. “She was off-exhibit in the giraffe barn when she died.”