Petal the elephant dies

June 9, 2008 5:52:04 PM PDT
The oldest African elephant in the U.S. died this morning at age 52. Her name was Petal, and she was one of the most beloved animals at The Philadelphia Zoo. Kallie and Bette are alone in the Philadelphia Zoo Pacaderm exhibit this evening because their companion, Petal died this morning. The 52-year-old African elephant's rear leg buckled, and at about 7am staff found her lying down.

Andrew Baker, V.P. Philadelphia Zoo, tells us, "Normally she sleeps standing up. So finding her lying down in the morning indicated there was something wrong."

A necropsy, the animal equivalent of an autopsy, will determine why Petal died. But at 52 she was the oldest African elephant in an American zoo... and a dozen years past the early to mid 40-year life span of a typical African elephant.

Petal's exhibit mates are half her age at 24 and 25. The three were scheduled to move to the Pittsburgh Zoo's International Conservation Center in Western Pennsylvania later this summer. In 2006, the zoo decided to move them because it can't afford the cost of updating and expanding the exhibit enough to give them adequate living and roaming space.

Kallie and Bette who spent most of their lives here, will still move to Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia Zoo was Petal's home for more than 50 years... nearly all of her life.