The Main Stream

Jul 20, 2012 1:33 AM

Former Tucson Elephant dies in San Diego

TUCSON - Sad news from the San Diego Zoo as Connie the Asian elephant that used to be a longtime resident at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo has died.

Veterinarians put the 43-year-old pachyderm down Thursday morning because her health failed. Connie and her longtime African elephant exhibit-mate Shaba moved to the San Diego Zoo in February, a move that came with a lot of controversy.

When Connie first arrived in San Diego workers treated her for a few urinary tract infection and she got better, but over the past two weeks it all went down hill when fluid began to gather in her abdomen.

Susan Bassford is the Reid Park Zoo Administrator. She said, "She was getting a variety of medications. She wasn't showing any improvement at all and because they had to do it intravenously she was clearly uncomfortable and not improving."

So the staff made the tough call to put her down. Bassford said, "I think they made a very responsible decision." She later added, "Honestly she couldn't have been in a better place. They have all the resources in the world to take care of elephants. That facility is designed to take care of older elephants with illnesses."

It's because of that specially designed facility that has the Reid Park Zoo standing by its decision to move them, something that stirred up a lot of controversy.

And now those critics are dealing with their worst fears.

Tracy Tolland help lead the charge to keep the elephants here in Tucson. She said, "In my humble opinion and again I'm not an expert but I do believe the move was the thing that pushed her over."

Jessica Shuman couldn't agree more. She said, "I think that the stress and impact of a move played a significant role in her deterioration."

But anger aside they said their main feeling right now is sadness.

Shuman said, "I wept. A lot, and I have a little more crying to do.

And not just for Connie, also for Shaba; something the San Diego Zoo was prepared for.

Yadira Galindo is the PR director for the San Diego Zoo. She said, "Shaba was given opportunity to say her goodbyes."

And workers said in an emotional moment, it appears she did. Galindo said, "She rumbled a little bit, but a soft rumble, not her usual loud rumble she usually does after seeing Connie for the first time after being separated. So there seems to be some awareness going on. We do believe there is a mourning period for these animals."

Mourning that will be shared by a large portion of Tucson.

There will be an autopsy done on Connie to see why she wasn't responding to the medication and why she got so sick. Many hoping to get an answer to the big question of did the move away from Tucson affect Connie's life.

Meanwhile, San Diego workers said they will be keeping an extra close eye on Shaba to make sure she handles the loss okay.

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