TUCSON, Ariz. - The Reid Park's Zoo’s elephant herd is a real favorite with visitors and zoo workers but they are mourning the death of one of the elephants they love.
The elephants know part of their family is missing.
His name was Punga. He was young, just eleven years old when he died.
We are saddened to report beloved 11-year-old male elephant, Punga, died unexpectedly yesterday due to a double mesenteric torsion, or twisted gut. Symptoms of this condition are rapid and often fatal. To read the complete news release click here: https://t.co/YdrMz1YGUhpic.twitter.com/Sf8fBrBg6Z
His family came out about mid-morning after huddling in their barn.
Interim Zoo director Sue Tygielski says, “After Punga passed---he passed in the barn. We allowed the elephants to come in and see him because that is often what elephants do when one passes they want to have the opportunity to touch and smell them and they all spent different amounts of time. We have one elephant in particular who he used to play with a lot who didn't leave him. Even his mother left him more quickly than she did."
What happened to Punga is a condition called mesenteric torsion where his internal organs twist onto themselves and create restrictions. That's rare in elephants, but more common in dogs and horses and other large animals but in this case that was just something the animal could not survive.
Many humans have a special love for elephants; Maybe they see the almost human bonds in the elephant families. We did not want to break the news of Punga's death to zoo visitors. There were too many children there.
Friends of the zoo reacted on its’ Facebook page. One said, "My heart goes out to all that cared for sweet Punga. Thank you for all the loving care you give these beautiful creatures. You will be in my thoughts and prayers in the days to come."
Sue Tygielski says, “'I think it was the most devastating thing that that has happened to our team. Not only the people that helped take care of him but the elephant herd itself is experiencing---all of them are in mourning."
And the people who cared for Punga left him a remembrance. His bucket, and the carrots he loved, arranged in the shape of a heart.