Elephant dies at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson

Posted at 9:10 AM, May 09, 2018

An 11-year-old elephant died at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson on Tuesday.

Punga, a male, died due to double mesenteric root torsion, also known as twisted gut.

The condition is known to occur suddenly and is usually deadly. 

According to Reid Park Zoo veterinarian Alexis Moreno, torsions are more common in horses than in elephants. The cause is not known. Post-mortem tests could reveal the cause in several weeks.

"The animal care team noticed Punga showing signs of discomfort yesterday morning, and responded immediately,” said Moreno, in a statement. "They provided exceptional care and did everything right. Unfortunately, with this condition recovery is nearly impossible. Our team is devastated and it makes us feel rather helpless, but there is nothing we could have done differently to change the outcome."

Other elephants at the zoo are expected to mourn the death of Punga. Zoo personnel allowed the elephants to access Punga's body so they could begin their mourning process.

"Because elephants have complex social structures and deep family bonds we wanted to ensure they had an opportunity to grieve as we all do,” said Sue Tygielski, PhD, interim zoo administrator, in a statement. "Our staff are deeply affected by his loss and we will be providing grief counselors to support them. We deeply appreciate the community’s support during this difficult time."