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Seneca Park Zoo reports the death of African elephant, Chana

Oct 22, 2019

Chana (left), and Moki
Credit Seneca Park Zoo

The Seneca Park Zoo announced on Tuesday that a 37 year old female African elephant, named Chana, has died.

She was euthanized on Monday night, after a problem with her left rear leg that made it increasingly difficult to place weight on it.

Officials say that for two years, Chana has had a chronic issue in one of the nails of her left front foot, and despite treatment from veterinary and animal care staff, the injury became infected.

When this infection began to impact a bone in her foot, the Zoo team used a number of  techniques, including foot soaks and nail trimming, stem cell therapy, and a custom-made boot with daily bandage changes.

As of  Monday evening, Chana lowered herself into a kneeling position and was unable to stand, despite extensive assistance, and that’s when the decision was made to euthanize her.

“Our dedicated team at Seneca Park Zoo handled this very difficult situation professionally and compassionately,” said Larry Staub, Director of Monroe County Parks and Seneca Park Zoo. “I am incredibly proud of their outstanding efforts on Chana’s behalf. As a Zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the welfare of the animals in our care is our top priority.  The final years of Chana’s life were greatly enriched at our world-class facility.”

Other animals at the zoo were distraught, Staub said. “Elephants are very intelligent animals, and as part of protocol for when you have a deceased elephant in a group, you allow the elephants to grieve.”

One of the zoo's three other elephants, Moki, had been with Chana her entire life, said Staub. Moki "touched Chana with her trunk all over her body, trumpeted a lot, protected her when the other two elephants approached."

"You could tell she really understood what was going on -- understood the impact of what had happened, and was caring for her friend," Staub said.

Chana arrived at Seneca Park Zoo in 2015 from Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens with Moki, another 37-year-old female African elephant. 

Over the last two years, Chana has also experienced a variety of other conditions which required veterinary care, including an autoimmune skin disease, general loss of body condition, and degenerative joint disease. Zoo officials say these conditions likely contributed to her inability to recover from her most recent issue. A necropsy will be conducted, but results will not be available for several weeks.

Seneca Park Zoo officials say that based on statistics from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the median life expectancy for a female African elephant is 38.6 years. The Zoo’s remaining African elephants, Genny C (41), Lilac (41), and Moki (37), all of whom are females, are closely monitored for signs of age-related conditions.

Staub says that this has been a very difficult week for Seneca Park Zoo, whose spotted hyena, Lou – the oldest hyena in human care – was euthanized over the weekend due to age-related illness. 

“Losing two beloved animals in the same week is very difficult for the Zoo family,” Staub said.  “While these two deaths are unrelated, it’s very sad for our staff, members, guests, and the whole community.”

The Zoo and Lower Seneca Park will be closed on Tuesday as staff deals with Chana’s death.