TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Reid Park Zoo lost a member of its animal family this week.
Punga, an 11-year-old elephant, died unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon due to an illness.
While the animal care team took immediate emergency measures, the life-saving effort was not successful.
Reid Park Zoo said Punga died from complications of twisted bowels.
"The animal care team noticed Punga showing signs of discomfort yesterday morning, and responded immediately," said Alexis Moreno, the zoo's veterinarian. "They provided exceptional care and did everything right. Unfortunately, with this condition recovery is nearly impossible. Our team is devastated and it makes us feel rather helpless, but there is nothing we could have done differently to change the outcome."
Recognizing that the elephants will also mourn the unexpected loss of their family member, the Animal Care Team provided them access to Punga's body and an opportunity to process the death in their own way.
"Because elephants have complex social structures and deep family bonds we wanted to ensure they had an opportunity to grieve as we all do," said Sue Tygielski, PhD, Interim Zoo Administrator.
Grief counselors will also be provided for the staff and a full necropsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death, which could take several weeks, according to the zoo.