UTICA — The Utica Zoo has announced the sudden passing of their male Bactrian camel Nigel on Thursday.

Although the cause of death is unknown, zoo officials are awaiting necropsy results from Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine.

Nigel had been under veterinarian care for arthritis and complications of aging over the last couple of years.

Nigel was born in 2000 at St. Louis Zoological Park. He arrived at the Utica Zoo in 2001.

He quickly became a visitor favorite because of his large stature (7 feet tall, 2,200 pounds) and laid-back demeanor.

In fall of 2014, the zoo built a custom training window at the camel exhibit. Since then, visitors have been able to see Nigel and his companion Najla from just a few feet away.

The new window enabled animal care staff take part in a daily feeding and keeper talk, as well as special animal encounters where visitors can hand-feed the camels through the grated window. Nigel’s favorite produce was eggplant and zucchini.

“Nigel was an ambassador for a critically endangered species. For 16 years, he stole the hearts of thousands of guests and sent the message that these beautiful beings have a place on this earth. He will be greatly missed,” said Alexandra Weaver, the lead keeper of the Asian Realm.

With the passing of Nigel, Najla will receive extra attention, training and enrichment.