A baby elephant was euthanized today after she didn’t gain the weight necessary for a healthy upbringing.
Zoo staff decided to euthanize the elephant after trying multiple ways of feeding her. Nursing was not an option because the little elephant’s teeth came in too quickly for the comfort of her mother. Zoo staff tried feeding the calf with a feeding tube, but she still would not gain weight, as Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 reported.
The Pittsburgh Zoo elephant will undergo a necropsy—an animal autopsy—to see if the reason for the slow weight gain can be determined. Initial thoughts are that there was a birth defect or a complication related to the elephant’s premature birth.
The elephant weighed 184 pounds when she was born this past July. By the time they made the decision to euthanize she was down to 166 pounds. She should have been over 200 pounds by then.
Pittsburgh Zoo officials were worried about how the public would take the news, and if they would be criticized for the decision to euthanize. “We expect there will be criticism and accusations from those with limited information and no animal care experience. Sadly, these individuals seek to benefit their own agendas by misrepresenting the realities of a tragic situation and demanding action based on misinformation,” the zoo stated on its Elephant Entries blog.
Problems began when the calf’s mother didn’t let her feed. Zoo staff tried to feed her with a bottle of milk from an elephant that was not her mother, mixed with a formula designed for her. But her early teething prevented that from going successfully. That’s when they decided to use a feeding tube.
Dr. Barbara Baker, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, spoke to the public about the tough decision that she and the zoo staff made.
“We knew when we put the feeding tube in that this was our last chance, that we had consulted with all of the experts: veterinarian, medical, elephant calf experts, all across the country, all across the world,” she said in a press conference. “And we should have seen, with the feeding tube, a pickup in her weight, a consistent pick up in her weight.”