Baby Elephant
Baby elephant Getty Images

A baby elephant at The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium died Wednesday, local news outlets like WPXI reported. Caretakers tried to save the elephant after her mother rejected her. The calf was born premature June 6 and was unable to nurse. Ultimately, zookeepers made the decision to euthanize the elephant after she didn't regain her health.

A female African elephant stays in her mother’s womb for 645 days. The Pittsburg elephant, however, was born at 615 days. She weighed 184 pounds when she was born, which is more than 50 pounds below average. Her mother didn’t have any milk and disowned her.

“Our hearts are broken, it’s just devastating,” Dr. Barbara Baker, the zoo’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “She touched so many people in such a short time. We did everything we possibly could to care for her, but unfortunately in the end, it just wasn’t enough.”

When the baby elephant stopped eating because she was teething, zookeepers tried to keep her alive with a feeding tube. The baby elephant, who was apparently never named, started to act like her “feisty” self in the beginning. Even though it worked at first, the elephant did not gain a significant amount of weight.

The zoo spoke with international experts to see how they could help the baby. At first, the officials said it was typical for elephants to lose weight when they were born.

“When we spoke with them, they assured us that it was a normal occurrence for calves who are teething to not have an appetite and to lose weight,” Baker said. “But they also warned us that sometimes the little calves can’t recover from the weight loss and they pass away as a result.”

A cause of death for the calf was not immediately known. IT will take several weeks for the autopsy to come back.

“When the calf did not gain weight, we began to suspect a genetic abnormality or some type of malabsorption syndrome that the calf was born with, that did not allow her to absorb the nutrients as she should. The veterinary team will be doing a full necropsy, which will hopefully shed some light on the problem,” the zoo’s president said.

Since they decided to euthanize the suffering calf, the zoo expects to face a backlash from the public. “We expect there will be criticism and accusations from those with limited information and no animal care experience,” Baker said in the press release, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Sadly, these individuals seek to benefit their own agendas by misrepresenting the realities of a tragic situation and demanding action based on misinformation. Despite the outcome, we fully stand behind the informed and calculated decisions made, and the valiant efforts and commitment of the team of experts who cared for the elephant calf. The Zoo's keeper and veterinary staff demonstrate dedication to the care and welfare of animals every single day and always act in the interest of what is best for each individual animal in every unique situation.”

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