NC Zoo elephant dies after ingesting sand

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Little Diamond is pictured on exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo. (N.C. Zoo Photo)

ASHEBORO, N.C. — A 36-year-old African elephant died Tuesday evening at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

“Little Diamond” was well-known in the zoo community as the first African elephant born in North America.

The elephant was born at the Knoxville Zoo in 1978, she was transferred to the N.C. Zoo in May 1995 to become part of the zoo’s seven-member herd.

According to General Curator Ken Reininger, Diamond had begun showing signs of colic last Friday when she stopped eating and became lethargic.

Her condition worsened over the next five days despite treatments for suspected intestinal ailments, according to Chief Veterinarian Mike Loomis.

A necropsy, or animal autopsy conducted into the early morning hours Wednesday revealed that Diamond had succumbed to an impacted large intestine from ingesting sand, Loomis said.

Sand is a common substrate used in zoo elephant holding facilities and exhibits.

The zoo’s six remaining elephants, including four females and two males ranging in age from 12 to 40, remain in good condition and on exhibit.

“Little Diamond had been part of our elephant family for 20 years,” said Zoo Director David Jones. “This is a very sad loss.”


    • Count Dantes 124

      The zoo has over 1,500 animals with an average life expectancy in the teens. Statistically 8-10 animals should die every month. It has nothing to do with being in a zoo this has to do with being alive. For most of these animals their life expectancies are longer because they are at a zoo.

      • SM

        The average life expectancy of elephants in the wild is 70-80 (provided they can elude a**hole poachers, but that’s another story). I have NEVER heard of a zoo elephant living anywhere close to that age. Is that some kind of new math that puts 36 years as having exceeded a “normal” life span?

    • Count Dantes 124

      The zoo has over 1,500 animals with an average life expectancy in the teens. Statistically 30 animals should die every 90 days. This isn’t because they are in a zoo it is because they are alive and will die eventually. Your comment is the same as if you went around saying “It would be great if Thomasville went 90 days without killing any people”. Thomasville isn’t killing people, people are dying because they are alive and death is their natural end.

  • big red 87

    Just because an animal dies at the zoo doesnt mean that it is the zoos fault. Those animals have been dying for multiple differant reasons from old age to them being sick. If you want to talk about a zoo “killing” their animals then why dont you look at the zoos in other countries that purposely kill their animals just to feed others. If you want to bi**h about something then bi**h about that and stop passing judgement on things you know nothing about. Dont you people have anythinh better to do then to talk down about something like this. The zoo lost a long time family member have a little respect people.

    • Chucky

      While I agree with you for the most part, the sum of all of these animals dying must cause some question about why they are dying and if the deaths might have been avoided. It sounds like in this case, they could have been able to figure out that there was an obstruction after she stopped eating and she wasn’t responding to other treatments. I’m no vet and I sympathize with those who know and take care of the animals as well as the rest of her pack though.

      I’m still very proud of the NC Zoo. I have visited several zoos around the country including the National Zoo in D.C. Our zoo puts the others to shame. While the NC Zoo has habitats that are designed to mimic those of the animals they contain, many zoos around the country still display their animals in places that look more like jail cells.

      • NCSpacey

        Ty Chucky, I agree with you. The deaths in the past year have been unfortunate, but we house an aging population of animals, and the zoo does an excellent job caring for them.

      • Chucky

        well that is why I said “if the deaths might have been avoided”. I was not sure how many of them were age related.

  • Phore

    no matter how many die do they have propermortum care, best zoology physical, chemical ,scientific opportunity with jars for the small and tanks for the large such as ‘Diamond being perseverd for transplant cell for herd . Enough small to intern all zoo citizen inhabitants final resting disposal of the active earthy body by fire, sea,or land. My point is thu loss, with limited resources renewed under zoo research

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