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The 27-year-old Asian elephant was in the zoo's elephant barn, eating dinner before the disturbance happened.
An elephant at the Saint Louis Zoo died unexpectedly Friday, and officials said a dog that was running loose near the elephant habitat might be indirectly responsible.
The series of events began around 3:40 p.m. when the small dog was seen running in an area near the elephant barn that is closed off to the public. Zoo officials said the dog was lost and staff members quickly contained the dog to hand over to a local shelter.
But that wasn’t before the dog’s presence had caused an elephant that was outside of the barn at the time to become agitated.
Zoo officials said the care team moved the elephant indoors to get away from the disturbance, which is where 27-year-old Asian elephant Rani was having dinner.
Once the elephant who was disturbed by the dog entered the barn, other elephants began to vocalize and feed off of the elephant’s agitation. Rani also appeared to share the distress of the herd, zoo officials said.
Rani began to vocalize before circling and collapsing. The care team immediately performed emergency care but couldn’t revive her, the zoo said.
“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” said Michael Macek, Saint Louis Zoo Director in a statement. “Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”
Initial results from the necropsy showed there were some changes to Rani’s heart before the whole ordeal, the zoo said. But it’s unclear how significant those changes were and further testing is being done.
Members of the zoo’s care team and the elephant herd were all given time with Rani to say their goodbyes, since the animals are one of the few who mourn in similar ways to humans. The zoo said the rest of the herd is doing well.
“Rani was a special member of this elephant family group,” said Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, zoological manager of River’s Edge. “She loved playing with her sisters Maliha and Priya. While growing up here in St. Louis, she got to learn from her own mom, Ellie, on how to be an amazing mother herself.”
Rani and her mother, Ellie, had been at the Saint Louis Zoo since 2001. She gave birth to three calves during her lifetime, one of which she is pictured with below.
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