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San Diego Zoo's famous Asian elephant is euthanized

Carol, who was 40 and had been at the park since 1968, was suffering from a degenerative joint disease, park officials say.

June 20, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Carol, an Asian elephant who gained national acclaim by appearing on the "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," has been euthanized by veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, zoo officials announced Tuesday.

The 40-year-old elephant had been suffering from a painful degenerative joint disease. Zoo officials say they tried for years to help Carol with therapy, a specialized diet and exercise.

They also installed a padded floor in the elephant barn.

An animal activist group that does not believe elephants should be kept in captivity said Carol's decline proves the case. "Elephants need space," said Elliot Katz, a veterinarian and president of Defense of Animals.

Zoo officials reject the group's assertion that Carol's surroundings made her condition worse.

Carol, who was born in Thailand, came to the San Diego Zoo in 1968 and was transferred to the Wild Animal Park in 1978. With her death, the Wild Animal Park has 10 African elephants and five Asian elephants.

The African elephants' exhibit is three acres, the Asian elephant exhibit 2.5 acres.

Joan Embrey, the zoo's "ambassador," repeatedly brought Carol and other animals on Carson's show. The running gag was Carson's startled, flummoxed reaction.

Along with the television appearances, Carol also gained notice for her ability to "paint," using her trunk to hold a paintbrush. Her pictures were sold at various zoo-sponsored fundraisers.

In a statement announcing Carol's death, zoo officials said, "We recognize that Carol will be sorely missed by the caring staff and visitors."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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