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Staff at Roer’s Zoofari are mourning the loss of a beloved giraffe, Waffles, and his companion giraffe, after a devastating barn fire that occurred after the zoo closed for the day.

Fairfax County dispatched contacted owner, Vanessa Roer, at 5:30 P.M. to report a fire in the barn where the giraffe overnight. Zoo staff members and veterinarian arrived within minutes to help rescue and care for approximately 20 other animals housed in the same area. They unfortunately could not reach the giraffes in their stalls. The giraffes likely died of smoke inhalation. About one-third of the barn was destroyed before the fire was contained.  

“Waffles was a favorite with our visitors and our team. We are heartbroken,” said Roer. “We are so grateful that no person or other Zoofari animals were injured or lost. And we deeply appreciate the firefighters who came so quickly to help extinguish the fire.”

The cause of the fire is not yet determined. Staff believe it may have resulted from a radiant heater that is used to keep the animals warm in the barn overnight and in cold temperatures.  

The zoo will be closed until further notice while staff deal with the aftermath of the fire. Grief counselors are being made available for staff, who are devastated by this tragedy and who cared deeply for these members of the Zoofari family.

“Our team is so dedicated to the wellbeing of every animal, so when any are lost, it’s a very emotional time. We will be supporting each other through the healing,” said Roer.

a close up of a giraffe looking through a fence

Waffles has been the heart of Roer’s Zoofari for 5 years. As we grieve we can look back at his legacy he leaves behind. The thousands of children’s hearts he has touched. The love has sparked love, the weddings attended, and spurring the minds of young adventurers. Rest in peace Waffles, you will never be forgotten.

Photo by @2kidsandablog

a close up of an animal

Belgian was recently brought in as a companion to Waffles after an extensive search to find him a friend. Tragically his time here was cut short. But in his few weeks at Roer’s Zoofari, he uplifted the spirits of visitors and staff. He helped make Waffles last days an absolute joy as they played in the sun. Rest in peace Belgian, gone but never forgotten.


The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been monitoring and identifying giraffes on their lands using photos gathered from camera traps, photos taken during waterhole counts, and from photos taken by staff, interns, and guests opportunistically. The study aims to monitor and identify individuals in the population, census the population annually, and start to understand the herd dynamic and population structure on our lands. Since the intensive monitoring began in 2003, CCF has identified 130 individuals that utilize the open landscape. Twelve of the giraffes that were seen in 2020 were first identified in 2003, and 10 were calves born during 2019. Research conducted in 2019 has shown that the giraffe population at CCF has group sizes that range between lone animals up to 17 individuals in a herd.

CCF’s giraffe monitoring project occurs on 2 of the 11 open landscape farms that CCF manages and monitors outside of Otjiwarongo, Namibia. The 11 farms combine to cover 142,483 acres (57,621 hectares) that are managed to maintain the local biodiversity. CCF’s Ecology team surveys the property utilizing camera traps and game drives to census and monitor the wildlife present on CCF’s land. The long-term census data allows CCF to analyze changes in the environment and implement management strategies to maintain the local biodiversity and inform conservation practices across the region.


If you wish to make a donation to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in the name of our giraffes, please use this link.

If you would like to learn more about or get involved with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), please use this link.

If you would like to make a donation directly to Roer’s Zoofari for a new Giraffe Enclosure, please use this link.


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