The San Diego Zoo lost one of its elder statesmen Tuesday. Ranchipur, the zoo’s 50-year-old Asian elephant, was euthanized after his health suddenly took a turn for the worse.
The elderly mammal, who was the fourth-oldest male elephant in the Western Hemisphere, had been under veterinary care for several years due to various geriatric ailments. Early Tuesday morning, keepers in the Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey exhibit became concerned because he was suddenly looking weak. After he did not respond to emergency medical assistance, the decision was made to euthanize him to reduce his suffering.
A necropsy is being conducted, but it is likely that Ranchipur’s latest health issues were age-related. Asian elephants generally live to about age 42 in captivity.
Ranchipur came to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park — then known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park — from a private owner in 1981, and he lived there until he was moved to the Elephant Odyssey habitat at the zoo in 2009. He was treated in the habitat’s Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center, which houses geriatric elephants and elephants needing extensive medical care.
Known for being more gentle than the typical bull elephant, Ranchipur was the only male in the zoo’s older, non-breeding herd, which also includes two female Asian elephants and three female African elephants. He was the second-oldest of the elephants. Mary, one of the Asian elephants, turned 52 this year.
At almost 11 feet tall and weighing 10,152 pounds (including his two 100-pound tusks), Ranchipur was a formidable presence in the habitat. For his 50th birthday party in January, keepers built him a 15-foot-tall “50” made of tree branches and decorated with hibiscus and pieces of bananas. He brought the whole structure down in less than six minutes, but only after picking out the hibiscus and bananas with his trunk.
Ranchipur “will be missed by staff, volunteers and guests,” the zoo said in a statement. “Please take a moment to share your condolences with those people who worked closely with Ranchipur, who especially will be feeling his loss.”
Peterson writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.