Orana Wildlife Park staff in Christchurch say they are devastated by the sudden death overnight of Harold, a 19-year-old male Giraffe.
Animal Collection Manager Ian Adams says he has worked with Harold since he arrived at the park from Chicago in 1994.
"He was an absolutely iconic animal and his death is a major loss to the park. It has come as a shock to us all as he was not an old animal," Adams said.
"He had a relatively easy-going manner for a bull and will be sadly missed. He was affectionately known by some of us as 'Harry'. He was a true gentle giant of the Park; so many visitors will have had the joy of hand feeding him."
Harold was managed separately over the past few years as he did have less patience as he matured, but he was an animal that commanded respect, Adams said.
"Harold sired nine offspring so made a fabulous contribution to the zoo-based breeding programme for his species. His legacy will live on as we currently have one pregnant female," he added.
A post mortem will be conducted this afternoon.
Harold was known outside of the park as being the 'mascot' of the Life Education Trust.