Los Angeles Zoo and Angelenos Mourn Jewel The 61-Year-Old Elephant

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The Los Angeles Zoo and Angelenos say goodbye and RIP to 61-year-old Jewel, the oldest Asian elephant in the Zoo’s care. Jewel passed away due to declining health.

Since Sunday, animal care and veterinary staff monitored Jewel around the clock and provided her with intensive supportive care. After several days of giving Jewel the best treatments available, the difficult decision to compassionately euthanize her was made by the animal care and veterinary staff when it was clear her quality of life was not going to improve.

“The entire Los Angeles Zoo family is grieving this loss,” said Denise M. Verret, CEO & zoo director, Los Angeles Zoo. “Jewel’s indelible impact on our staff, volunteers, and guests was immeasurable. Jewel was the oldest Asian elephant in our care, and I want to applaud our dedicated teams who provided 24/7 care to Jewel during her final days and ensured her best well-being throughout the 12 years she resided at the Los Angeles Zoo.”

Jewel and her companion, 57-year-old Tina, spent thirty years together under private ownership and had a close relationship. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) removed the pair in 2009, and after recovery and rehabilitation, they arrived at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2010. For the last 12 years, Jewel was able to thrive and live comfortably with Tina at Elephants of Asia, receiving excellent care. Angelenos have been able to foster connections to Asian elephants, in part to Jewel’s presence at the Zoo, and have also had the unique opportunity to see the recent bonds created with male bull Asian elephant Billy (38) and female Asian elephant Shaunzi (51). Jewel’s longevity is a testament to the level of well-being zoos can provide animals in all stages of their lives.

“When an animal is in its geriatric stage, we want to make sure that their quality of life is always considered when making wellness decisions,” said Dr. Dominique Keller, chief veterinarian & director of animal health and wellness, Los Angeles Zoo. “In Jewel’s case, our veterinary and animal care teams collaborated and worked nonstop to provide her with the highest level of care. However, in the end, we realized that her quality of life was continuing to decline despite our best efforts, and we had to make this very difficult decision to compassionately euthanize her. She will be remembered as an incredible ambassador for her endangered species.”

Asian elephants are found in forests and grasslands of Southeast Asia. India is home to about 60 percent of the population, with smaller populations in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Asian elephants are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with only an estimated 40,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Elephants have been hunted illegally for their tusks (ivory), and much of their habitat has been destroyed. The Los Angeles Zoo participates in an Elephant Species Survival Plan and is a longtime partner with elephant conservation organizations working in their wild range to reduce human-elephant conflict.

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