Hanako, ‘World’s Loneliest’ Elephant, Dies at Age 69 in Japan

May 30, 2016 Updated: May 30, 2016

An elephant dubbed the “world’s loneliest” has died in a Japanese zoo at the age of 69, according to reports this week.

Hanako has lived by herself in the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo since 1954. The elephant was given to Japan by the Thai government in 1949.

“She passed away quietly and calmly”, said Kiyoshi Nagai, the head of of the zoo, reported Kyodo News agency. “It is truly regrettable. She was the most loved elephant in Japan. I am grateful to all the people who loved her”.

She became a popular tourist attraction at the zoo after her relationship with a zookeeper was turned into a novel and a TV series, the Bangkok Post reported.

However, critics called on the Japanese government to send her back to Thailand, so she could live in a sanctuary with other elephants, reported The Independent.

A petition was created by animal rights activists, but Tokyo said the pachyderm was too old to travel. An independent expert who examined her, Carol Buckley, agreed with the Japanese government’s assessment. She suggested that improvements could be made to her living conditions.

Meanwhile, Hanako—meaning “flower child” in Japanese—probably wouldn’t be able to live with other elephants after spending nearly seven decades alone, Buckley said. The zoo built new fences around her enclosure, and she reportedly was too scared to go outside.