NATIONAL NEWS

Elephant dies at St. Louis Zoo shortly after her herd became agitated from a dog running loose

Oct 18, 2023, 9:20 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A female Asian elephant at the St. Louis Zoo died shortly after her herd became agitated from a small dog running loose, zoo officials said.

Rani (pronounced Rahn-ee) died Friday at age 27. The zoo announced her death on Tuesday.

“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” zoo Director Michael Macek said in a news release. “Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”

A small, unleashed dog was seen running in a non-public area near the Elephant Barn Friday afternoon. Elephant care workers were trying to contain the dog, but an elephant outside the barn became agitated and was moved inside, the zoo said.

Rani was already inside the barn, eating, and didn’t see the dog. But members of the elephant care team “observed Rani become agitated in reaction to the vocalizations from the herd. They saw Rani circle and vocalize, all within a very brief period, before collapsing,” the zoo release said.

Attempts to revive the elephant were unsuccessful. The rest of the herd calmed down quickly, the zoo said.

Initial necropsy results showed some preexisting changes in Rani’s heart, but further tests are being conducted and zoo pathologists don’t yet know if those changes played a role in her death.

Rani and her mother, Ellie, came to the St. Louis Zoo from another zoo in July 2001. The St. Louis Zoo said the move was recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan. The program seeks to manage the Asian elephant population in North America and maximize their health and genetic diversity.

The World Wildlife Fund says Asian elephants are endangered, with fewer than 50,000 in the wild. Habitat loss and poaching are blamed for their plight. It is the largest land mammal on the Asian continent.

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Elephant dies at St. Louis Zoo shortly after her herd became agitated from a dog running loose