OKC ZOO EUTHANIZES OLDEST ASIAN ELEPHANT, BAMBOO DUE TO DECLINING HEALTH FROM AGE-RELATED ISSUES
November 15, 2022
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden humanely euthanized its oldest Asian elephant, Bamboo on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. Surrounded by her caretakers and the Zoo’s veterinary care team, Bamboo peacefully passed away inside the OKC Zoo’s elephant barn at Sanctuary Asia. Caretakers brought the entire elephant herd together inside the barn Tuesday morning to allow them time to be near Bamboo.
At approximately 56 years old, Bamboo was the OKC Zoo’s oldest Asian elephant and considered geriatric or at an age that is near or beyond the average life expectancy for their species. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the median life expectancy for female Asian elephants is 47.
Since 2019, Bamboo had exhibited behavior changes and slower mobility due to age-related issues resulting in caretaker developing a daily geriatric care program for her that included advanced treatment for arthritis with medication and physical therapy. Caretakers were monitoring Bamboo closely and recording data on a regular basis to observe her overall quality of life. Bamboo’s mobility was impacted due to suspected damage to a ligament in her right knee. She occasionally experienced a temporary loss of strength in her rear right leg causing it to “buckle” or “give out”. In recent weeks caretakers observed the frequency of these incidents increasing, and, at times, Bamboo would have to catch herself on habitat walls or furnishings to regain her footing. Due to this instability, participating in her own health care including physical therapy and daily training for foot care had become difficult for Bamboo and caretakers realized that her quality of life was diminishing beyond medical treatment. Therefore, the Zoo’s veterinary and elephant care teams made the difficult but necessary decision to euthanize Bamboo.
“Bamboo was a wonderful elephant and it was honor to care for her throughout her senior years,” said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo’s curator of elephants and rhinos. “Though this decision was extremely difficult we did not want Bamboo to experience any pain or suffering and together, as a team, decided it was time to say goodbye.”
“The Oklahoma City Zoo strives to provide the best care and welfare, from birth to death, for all of the wildlife that call the Zoo home.” said Jennifer D’Agostino, OKC Zoo’s director of veterinary services. “However, when an individual animal’s health declines beyond the help of medical therapy, compromising its quality of life, we have to make the difficult decision to humanely euthanize that animal.”
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the OKC Zoo is committed to providing exceptional care and optimal wellbeing for all its animals often overseeing their whole life care from birth to death. Compared to animals in the wild, those in human care tend to live significantly longer lives, sometimes doubling life expectancy, due advanced veterinary care and excellent wellbeing.
The OKC Zoo welcomed Bamboo and another female Asian elephant, Chai, to its animal family in 2015 from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington after they decided to relocate their elephants. Unfortunately, Chai passed away in 2016 from an infection in her bloodstream caused by infected molars. Both Bamboo and Chai were integral members of the Zoo’s multi-generational herd until their deaths.
Bamboo was affectionally known as the grandmother of the Zoo’s elephant herd and also enjoyed her independence from the herd. Caretakers shared that Bamboo tended to peel her bananas and oranges before eating them and was a fan of dust baths. Bamboo also developed a special bond with the herd’s youngest male elephant, Kandula with whom she often spent time with.
OKC Zoo is home to seven Asian elephants including Rex (55), Asha (26), Chandra (25), Kandula (20), Achara (7), Kairavi (4), and Rama (10 months old).
The OKC Zoo is committed to the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitat through its global partnerships. Asian elephants are endangered, facing unique challenges that threaten the species’ survival. Asian elephant populations in the wild have fallen below 40,000. The 13 nations that make up the natural habitat of Asian elephants contain the densest human population on the planet and, as a result, vital habitat for elephants has been reduced by 85% in 40 years. Furthermore, Asian elephants are much more susceptible than African elephants to EEHV, a fast-moving virus with a 60% fatality rate.
Over the last two decades, the Zoo has contributed more than $400,000 to elephant-related conservation. In addition to supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust since 2009, which protects elephants and other native species in Kenya, the Zoo partnered with the Rainforest Trust to purchase and preserve 13,000 acres of forest in central Sumatra and 18,000 acres of forest in Borneo, both of which are natural habitats for Asian elephants. The Zoo has also supported a number of other elephant conservation projects, including the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range Project in Myanmar and International Elephant Foundation’s conservation efforts in Sumatra. These projects support boots-on-the-ground teams that work to protect forests, prevent poaching and habitat encroachment.
The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry at 4 p.m. The Zoo will be closed to the public during the daytime on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Tuesdays and Wednesdays between December 6 and February 8, 2023. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular daytime admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. For additional information about the OKC Zoo call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.