(Colorado Springs, CO) Next week, Penny would have celebrated her fifth birthday.
Penny was born on June 4th, 2018, the 200th giraffe calf born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Her birth was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, and people worldwide celebrated her arrival.
Following her birth, the world watched as Penny attempted to stand, interacted with her mom and met some of the female members of the herd. Folks were captivated by the sweet giraffe calf and she became an instant celebrity.
Sadly, nine days after her birth, Penny was found splayed in her pen. She had fallen into an unnatural position and was injured.
The giraffe medical team soon discovered that the calf had a torn muscle in her right rear leg. The injury made it difficult for Penny to walk and lay down, so the zoo staff created "resting structures" that allowed her to rest while standing.
Due to the rear leg injury, Penny put more weight on her front legs which became problematic, requiring leg casts. The zoo staff worked tirelessly around the clock to rehabilitate the newest member of the giraffe herd, and the public closely followed her journey on Facebook.
Thousands of fans were rooting and praying for Penny's recovery.
A Beatles Fan Is Born
When Penny was ten days old, just one day after her fall, the zoo staff gave the giraffe calf a name. This was unusual as traditionally animal babies are not named until they are at least one month old at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but an exception was made for the calf that had captured the world’s heart.
According to the zoo archives, names were narrowed down to two choices — Mia or Penny. The staff played “Mama Mia” by Abba and the Beatles song “Penny Lane” to the injured calf, and her ears perked up to the Beatles hit. Henceforth, she was known as Penny!
A Devastating Loss
Despite extraordinary efforts by her medical team, Penny’s injuries were traumatic. She had a dislocated hip joint, an infection in her leg bones, and other medical conditions that would have negatively impacted her long-term quality of life.
On July 30th, 2018, a few days shy of her two-month birthday, a difficult decision was made to euthanize Penny.
Following her death, the giraffe enclosure, one of the most popular exhibits at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, was closed for two days to allow staff members time to grieve.
People from around the globe sent sympathy cards, flowers, stuffed animals, and donations. Local community members dropped off baked goods, and children delivered hand-drawn pictures. There was a tremendous outpouring of support for Penny's hardworking medical team.
Although Penny is gone, she is not forgotten. A bronze, life-size sculpture of Penny was unveiled at the zoo on June 20th, 2020.
The memorial is located near the giraffe feeding area, and it is a beautiful reminder of a giraffe calf from Colorado Springs that captured the attention of the world.