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California Briefing / San Diego

Animal park elephant dies

February 26, 2009|Tony Perry

Sunita, the oldest elephant at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, was euthanized Wednesday morning by animal keepers after a long battle with ill health, zoo officials said.

A 60-year-old female Asian elephant, Sunita came to the zoo in 1974. Her death leaves the Wild Animal Park with four Asian elephants and 11 African elephants.

Sunita had a number of health problems associated with old age, including a fast-moving infection. She had also broken a tooth and had refused to eat in recent days. Other elephants at the park were allowed to see Sunita in the hours before she was euthanized to soften the shock of her disappearance from the group, officials said.

A necropsy will be done to determine her exact condition, which could help guide future care for other elephants.

"She was an important part of our family," said a Wild Animal Park spokesman. "Everyone is very upset."

-- Tony Perry

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