A 45-year-old female Asian elephant was euthanized because of her deteriorating health from age-related problems, the San Diego Zoo announced Friday.
Devi had been undergoing therapy but her mobility had declined and wildlife care specialists “made the difficult decision” on Thursday to euthanize her, the zoo said in a Facebook posting.
“The San Diego Zoo family is heartbroken,” the zoo said.
Devi arrived at the zoo in 1977 from an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka.
“She inspired guests from all over the world to understand the importance of elephant conservation and leaves behind a remarkable legacy as an ambassador for her species,” the zoo said.
Devi was the second oldest of five elephants at the zoo. Mary, a 58-year-old Asian elephant, and African elephant Shaba, 42, lived with her at the Elephant Care Center.
After Devi died, the two were allowed to view her body and “make their goodbyes,” the zoo said.
Elephants in the wild are highly social animals and scientists say some have been observed performing behaviors that in humans might indicate mourning for a dead acquaintance.
The Asian elephant can live for decades in the wild and in captivity. It is considered endangered because of poaching and habitat loss, with an estimated wild population of about 50,000.
The San Diego Zoo has euthanized two other elephants for health reasons in the past six years. Ranchipur, a 50-year-old Asian male, died in 2016 and Tembo, a 48-year-old African female, was euthanized in 2019.