A Utah zoo and its remaining elephants are in mourning Saturday, when a very long-lived elephant was put down at 55-and-a-half years old, the zoo said.
Dari was the oldest African elephant in North America, far out-living the average life expectancy of her wild cousins, which is 42 years, according to Hogle Zoo, in Salt Lake City. She suffered from arthritis and her health began to decline in the last few months.
"She was starting to have more bad days than good and didn't have that fighting spirit. These are always difficult decisions," senior veterinarian Dr. Nancy Carpenter said in a news release.
Dari was euthenized after she was unable to get up on her own for a second day in the last few months, the zoo said.
Two other elephants remain at the zoo - 26 year-old Christie, and Zuri, nearly 6 – and they were allowed to grieve with Dari and are expected to continue mourning for some time, the zoo said.
Dari came to America in 1967, 48 years ago, according to the zoo. A zoo employer who took care of her credited her longevity to the great attention to care the zoo provided.
"That's what's so neat - it's generations of keepers and veterinarians that loved and took care of her. She touched a lot of lives," said elephant manager Eric Peterson, who worked with Dari for nearly 20 years, in the news release.
Dari, whose full name is Hy-Dari, could be a sassy but always graceful ambassador for Hogle Zoo, according to the release.
She was tough to train, Peterson said, but opened up once her trainers gained her trust: "She was the only elephant I've ever worked with that would seek out affection for no reason."
Ninety-six African elephants are killed every day for their ivory, the zoo said, asking that people hearing about Dari's death show their support by signing an anti-poaching petition at 96elephants.org.