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HomeGeneralLos Angeles Zoo Euthanizes 53-Year-Old Ailing Elephant

Los Angeles Zoo Euthanizes 53-Year-Old Ailing Elephant

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A picture of the Los Angeles Asian elephant
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The Los Angeles Zoo announced euthanizing a 53-year-old Asian elephant after she couldn’t stand up. The zoo workers discovered Shaunzi couldn’t stand after she went down on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. 

Shaunzi, one of two female elephants at the Zoo, could not stand after she went down in the yard of her exhibit space. The statement read, “Animal care staff and zoo veterinarians responded quickly and worked through the night to help Shaunzi up.” 

However, “Despite the use of all resources and personnel available, the extraordinary efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.” The zoo statement added that they made a “heartbreaking” decision to sedate and euthanize the animal on January 3, 2024. 

“It wasn’t clear why the elephant couldn’t stand up, and we planned a necropsy,” Zoo spokesman Carl Myers said. However, the rescue effort was unsuccessful, and the Zoo euthanized the elephant. Consequently, the Zoo has only one female elephant left.

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Born in Thailand, Shaunzi spent her youth in a circus. She came to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in 1983, and they sent her to the Los Angeles Zoo in 2017. According to reports from various zoos, researchers, and conservation groups, the median life expectancy of female Asian elephants in human care is around 40 to 50 years.

However, elephants in the wild can live decades longer. Conservation groups consider Asian elephants endangered; only about 40,000 remain in the wild. Poachers kill them for their tusks, and others destroy their habitats. Consequently, the Los Angeles Zoo became a home to Shaunzi. 

“Shaunzi lived a full life and was an ambassador for her species,” the Zoo said. “She helped Angelenos learn about her wild counterparts and their challenges in their native range.” In addition, the Los Angeles Zoo noted that many will miss Shaunzi. The statement added that the Los Angeles Zoo staff will dearly miss her.

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“And the millions of visitors who visit the Zoo each year.” Similarly, the Los Angeles Zoo euthanized its oldest Asian elephant in January 2023. The 61-year-old elephant, Jewel, was in deteriorating health and had lived in the Zoo since 2010. According to the Zoo’s statement, veterinarians and other staffers monitored her around the clock. 

“In the end, we realized that her quality of life continued to decline despite our best efforts,” the Zoo’s chief veterinarian said. “And we had to make this tough decision to euthanize her compassionately.” According to reports, Willie Davenport, a Texas man whose family was in the circus business, once owned Jewel. 

The then-24-year-old reportedly bought Jewel and another Asian elephant, Tina, from a retired elephant trainer for $150,000 in 2006. The two lived in Davenport’s barn with a third elephant, Boo, which had been in his family for four decades.

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However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accused Davenport of mistreating the elephants. Allowed to keep one elephant, Davenport chose Boo. Consequently, the authorities took Jewel and Tina to the San Diego Zoo before sending them to Los Angeles in 2010.

Zoo officials described Tina as Jewel’s companion of 30 years before they euthanized Jewel. Also, the elephants were companions of a 38-year-old bull Asian elephant, Billy and Shaunzi.

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