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72-year-old elephant, gifted to US by India, euthanized at Washington zoo


Press Trust of India Washington
Ambika, a 72-year-old elephant which was gifted to the US in 1961 on behalf of children of India, was "humanely euthanized" by veterinarians at a national zoo here in the national capital, officials here said on Saturday.
She was estimated to be the third oldest Asian elephant in the North American population. She was euthanized at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
"Ambika truly was a giant among our conservation community," said Steven Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
In a statement, the zoo said Ambika, the beloved eldest member of its Asian elephant herd, was humanely euthanized on Friday, following a recent and irreversible decline in her health.
"RIP Ambika - a loving gift from India. Elderly Asian Elephant Ambika Dies at Smithsonian's National Zoo | Smithsonian's National Zoo," India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu tweeted.
"Beloved Ambika, eldest member of our Asian elephant herd, has died at 72 y.o. It's impossible to quantify the millions of people she inspired to care about conservation in her 59 yrs. at the Zoo. All who knew Ambika loved her. We miss her dearly," the National Zoo said in a tweet.
Born in India around 1948, Ambika was captured in the Coorg forest when she was about 8 years old. She worked as a logging elephant until 1961, when she was given to the zoo as a gift from the children of India, the zoo said in a statement.
"Elephant keepers have fondly reflected on Ambika's sense of humour, particularly during mealtimes, when the persnickety eater would arrange her grains to her liking before eating,"it said.
"For the past five decades, Ambika served as both an ambassador and a pioneer for her species. It is not an exaggeration to say that much of what scientists know about Asian elephant biology, behaviour, reproduction and ecology is thanks to Ambika's participation in our conservation-research studies, Monfort said.
According to zoo authorities, Ambika had undergone treatment for osteoarthritis, a condition that first developed when she was in her late 60s.
Although the condition is incurable, animal care staff took steps to ease Ambika's pain and help slow the progression of her disease.
"Veterinarians prescribed anti-inflammatories, analgesic medications and various joint supplements, the zoo said.
Last week, keepers noticed that Ambika's right-front leg developed a curve that weakened her ability to stand.
Though she had some good days and some bad days, staff grew concerned when she chose not to explore her habitat as much as she normally would or engage with her keepers or elephant companions, Shanthi and Bozie, the zoo statement said.
Given Ambika's extremely old age, decline, physically and socially, and poor long-term prognosis, they felt they had exhausted all treatment options and made the decision to humanely euthanize her, the zoo statement explained.

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First Published: Mar 29 2020 | 6:16 AM IST

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