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Dari, North America’s oldest African elephant, dies at Hogle Zoo

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Aug 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-08 18:27:20-04
Dari the elephant. Photo by Eric Peterson/courtesy Utah's Hogle Zoo

Dari the elephant. Photo by Eric Peterson/courtesy Utah’s Hogle Zoo

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Hogle Zoo announced Saturday that Dari, who was the oldest African elephant in North America and a “long-time Zoo favorite”, was humanely euthanized due to her declining health.

According to a release from the zoo, Hy-Dari (or Dari for short) came to the zoo in 1967, and at the age of 55.5 she outlived the average life expectancy for elephants in the wild–which is 42 years. The animal now holds a record for the longest-lived African elephant in America.

“That’s a testament to her care over generations,” stated elephant manager Eric Peterson, who worked and trained Dari for nearly 20 years. “It’s not just me taking care of her. It’s the people who worked with her before me. It’s the people who took good care of her in 1967 to get her where she is today. That’s what’s so neat – it’s generations of keepers and veterinarians that loved and took care of her. She touched a lot of lives.”

The senior animal had been receiving extra attention from zoo staff in the past months as her health began to decline. In May, Dari was found lying on the ground. After a hoist was used to lift Dari, she stood and began eating but, “never completely recovered her full strength.”

After Dari was found on the ground again Saturday, “animal care staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Dari based on her decline in health, comfort and mobility.”

Dr. Nancy Carpenter is the senior veterinarian at Hogle Zoo, and she discussed Dari’s decline.

“We’ve been treating Dari for arthritis and other conditions associated with her age,” she stated in the press release. “She was starting to have more bad days than good and didn’t have that fighting spirit. These are always difficult decisions.”

“Dari keeping Zuri in line and away from her hay.” Image courtesy Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

According to the press release, Dari was the matriarch of the zoo’s elephant herd–which still includes 26-year-old Christie as well as Zuri, who turns six this month. The two elephants were allowed grieving time with Dari after she passed and are expected to go through their own mourning period.

Peterson said Dari was an affectionate animal who will be missed.

“She was the only elephant I’ve ever worked with that would seek out affection for no reason,” Peterson stated in the press release. “If the other two elephants come over they want to know what’s in it for them. But she would just come up and want attention.”