An elephant has died at St. Louis Zoo after her herd became agitated by a small dog running loose in the enclosure.
“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” zoo Director Michael Macek said in a statement.
“Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”
The zoo reported that a small dog broke loose and was seen running in a non-public area near the Elephant Barn on Friday afternoon.
Staff members tried to contain the dog; however, the four-legged fiend made its way to the elephant enclosure, where it caught the eye of one elephant.
The elephant was seemingly perturbed by the small dog before it was moved inside.
Rani was already inside the barn, eating and didn't see the dog.
However, members of the elephant care team observed that she had 'become agitated in reaction to the vocalisations from the herd. They saw Rani circle and vocalise, all within a very brief period, before collapsing'.
All attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. She was 27.
An autopsy report showed the elephant had pre-existing heart conditions; however, it's yet to be seen if it contributed to her death.
The zoo maintained that service animals are allowed in the facility, but pets are banned.
It's unclear how the dog entered the premises, and shortly after the incident, the canine was turned over to a shelter.
Rani and her mother, Ellie, came to the zoo in 2001. The zoo revealed that their move was recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Asian elephant species survival plan.
Ellie is also the mother of another elephant - 16-year-old Jade.
Ellie is still alive and is 52 years of age.
Rani was known for her unique squeaking noise when socialising – a noise that her younger sister mimics, according to Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, manager of the River’s Edge area of the zoo.
Asian elephants are now classified as endangered, as there are only 40,000 left in the wild, as per WWF Australia.
The greatest threat to the species is habitat loss and fragmentation.
With Asia being highly populated, its economic growth has led to encroachment into places where elephants live, leading to 70 per cent of elephants being found outside protected areas today.Featured Image Credit: St Louis Zoo. St Louis Zoo/Animals Always