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Cameron Park Zoo staff mourns 40-year-old African elephant

Cameron Park Zoo staff mourns 40-year-old African elephant

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Tanya, an African elephant who lived in Cameron Park Zoo, died at the age of 40 after “exhaustive efforts by the Zoo’s veterinarian and animal care staff,” the zoo announced Monday.

“She was a favorite among the animal care staff due to her huge personality,” zoo officials said in a news release. “She was known for her unique ‘raspberry’ vocalization that she greeted her keepers with every morning. She loved playing with her large enrichment tire and giving ‘high fives’ to anyone that would let her. She also loved playing her harmonica and painting.”

Tanya, African elephant

Tanya in her enclosure at Cameron Park Zoo.

Tanya left Abilene Zoo and joined Cameron Park Zoo’s African elephants in 2007. She died Sept. 29. Citing the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, zoo officials said median lifespan for African elephants in captivity is 38.6 years.

“As veterinary care and animal husbandry advances, geriatric care is becoming an increasing emphasis at AZA accredited zoos,” the press release stated. “It is especially important at Cameron Park Zoo because many of the animals have been at the zoo since 1993 or shortly afterwards and are approaching the end of their lifespans.”

The day after Tanya’s death, members from the pathology department of Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory’s pathology department and Dr. J. Jill Heatley from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences helped Cameron Park Zoo Veterinarian James Kusmierczyk with a necropsy, or animal autopsy. A preliminary necropsy revealed signs of a yet-unidentified disease that affected the circulatory system, heart, lungs and brain.

“The team suspects that an acute infection may be the underlying cause,” the release stated. “However, the exact cause of death is pending until the zoo receives a complete report of the necropsy. It could be several weeks before a full report is received.”

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