Stoney Oaks' Tibetan yak Zeus dies shortly after turning 20
A key member of the family at Stoney Oaks Wildlife Park has passed away just days after his 20th birthday.
Zeus, the resident Tibetan yak at the Taranaki park, celebrated his 20th birthday at the park but died of old age on Tuesday morning.
"He was good as gold and grazing happily and then out of nowhere we found him laying there dead," Stoney Oaks' owner Gail Simons said.
Simons had traded a highland bull for Zeus 20 years ago, and he had lived at Stoney Oaks ever since.
"I was taking photos of him for his birthday and noticed he was starting to get a bit of grey round the muzzle," she said.
"But we thought he would have at least a few more years in him."
Simons said Zeus had been a family favourite at the park and she had received messages from Stoney Oaks regulars expressing their condolences.
"He was just so good natured he would even come when you called him," she said.
"He really was our gentle giant, just a massive beast with a heart of gold."
While Zeus wasn't the park's oldest animal, Simons had had him since he was only five months old.
"20 is pretty old for a yak, though he was looked after very, very well," she said.
McGillie the Highland Bull, who was the Taranaki rugby team's mascot until 2007, was 22 when he died at Stoney Oaks. But they've had other bovines live as long as 24.
As for a funeral the staff at the park were busy making preparations about how to actually bury the massive animal.
"It's not like burying a cat, you have to get a digger in and find room in a paddock," she said.
"It's a very sad for us, Zeus will be sorely missed."