Detroit Zoo says goodbye to beloved gray wolf, Wazi: ‘We are heartbroken’

click to enlarge JENNIFER HARTE/ ROY LEWIS.
Jennifer Harte/ Roy Lewis.

The staff at the Detroit Zoo and thousands of visitors are mourning the loss of a majestic 11-year-old gray wolf named Wazi who passed away earlier this week.

The announcement, which was made Monday afternoon via the Detroit Zoo's Facebook page, states that Wazi died due to cardiac arrest during a surgery to remove a mass from her chest. The mass was discovered following a routine exam, and Wazi's veterinary team determined surgery was the only option based on the size and location of the mass.

“Wazi was intelligent, fearless, curious, and sassy and was adored by our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” the post reads. “She will be missed by all.”

The post has amassed 1,500 comments, many of which include touching anecdotes, photos, and videos from visitors, some as recent as this past weekend. Several comments sent love and sympathy to Kaska, Wazi's smoke-colored male companion. Both arrived from the Minnesota Zoo in 2015 and were introduced to the newly constructed two-acre Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness enclosure.

“I’m so heartbroken, she was one of my favorites,” commenter Irene Harper-Cleveland shared. “She will be missed. I’m so lucky to have all the awesome memories I have of her. She was such a beautiful awesome wolf. My deepest condolences to Kaska, her keepers, and all the zoo staff/volunteers who loved her.”

Gray wolves were one of the first species to receive the endangered species designation and protection offered by President Richard Nixon's Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 2008, gray wolves were delisted following a species reintroduction program that began in 1995 at Yellowstone National Park when wolves were brought in from Canada. There are an estimated 6,000 gray wolves throughout the west and Great Lakes region, though many argue that the repopulation numbers are still considerably low and that the gray wolves are still at risk.

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