Oakland Zoo is in mourning after the eldest African elephant in its care, M’Dunda, died in her habitat.
The 50-year-old pachyderm was found collapsed on the ground in her 6.5-acre enclosure on Tuesday afternoon, according to a release from the zoo.
Other elephants were quickly cleared from the area to allow caretakers to safely pass through, though veterinarians found that M’Dunda had already passed away when they arrived to the scene.
Wild elephants can live up to 70 years, though the median lifespan of those living in captivity is typically 17 years.
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M’Dunda, who was transferred from the San Diego Zoo to Oakland Zoo in 1993, was the third oldest African elephant in an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoo. She celebrated her 50th birthday in September.
“M’Dunda has been part of our Oakland Zoo family for 26 years. She was such a gentle being, and closely bonded with her keepers. We’ll miss her greatly,” Dr. Joel Parrott, president and CEO of Oakland Zoo, said in a statement. Parrott was also one of the veterinarians who rushed to M’Dunda when she collapsed in her habitat.
Oakland Zoo’s elephants are given daily examinations and treatments by animal keepers, along with bi-weekly thorough exams by in-house veterinarians that include foot soles inspections, blood work, and a vitals check, zoo officials said.
M’Dunda, who built a reputation of having a very gentle and kind demeanor, showed no signs of existing medical issues despite her advanced age, a statement read.
The elderly elephant’s body was transported to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where a necropsy and further testing will be performed to determine the specific cause of death.
Currently, there are three other African elephants at the Oakland Zoo: Donna, Lisa and Osh.
In September, the Santa Barbara Zoo lost a 48-year-old Asian elephant named Little Mac. The creature, which was last elephant to live in the zoo, was humanely euthanize after being placed in hospice care for ongoing medical issues.
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