Woodland Park Zoo elephant euthanized after falling ill

Aug 22, 2014, 2:25 PM | Updated: 2:53 pm
Watoto, a 45-year-old African elephant, was euthanized at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Friday ...
Watoto, a 45-year-old African elephant, was euthanized at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo Friday morning after falling ill. (Photo: Ryan Hawk-Woodland Park Zoo)
(Photo: Ryan Hawk-Woodland Park Zoo)

A 45-year-old African elephant was euthanized at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Friday morning after falling ill.

The zoo said staff members arrived to find Watoto lying down in the elephant yard and not able to stand upright, which is unusual for her. They tried to upright the Watoto with cloth straps and later with heavy machinery.

After health teams assessed her well-being, they determined Watoto’s condition was quickly declining and she would only become more uncomfortable, according to WPZ.

Zoo keepers and the health staff made the decision to “humanely euthanize her.”

“This is a very difficult time for our zoo family as we mourn the loss of Watoto, a beloved animal and dear friend to our staff and volunteers, members and community,” Bruce Bohmke, Woodland Park Zoo’s Chief Operations Officer, said in a news release. “Watoto has lived a long, healthful life at Woodland Park Zoo under the care of dedicated keepers and staff. We will all miss her greatly.”

The findings from a full necropsy will be released in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the south end of the Elephant Forest exhibit will remain closed until further notice.

The zoo said Watoto, which is Swahili for “children,” was born in Kenya between 1969 and 1970 and came to Seattle in 1971 as an orphan. She was considered to be the matriarch of the zoo’s herd.

The median life span is 17 years for African female elephants born in captivity, compared to 56 years in the Amboseli National Park population, according to the National Geographic.

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Woodland Park Zoo elephant euthanized after falling ill