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THE OLDEST ELEPHANT IN BRITAIN DIED AT THE AGE OF 49

Duchess the elephant has been put down at the age of 49. On Sunday morning, she was found collapsed in her stable by her keepers, who called vets to come and help her. All vets tried their best to put her down at around midday because they thought it was kinder. Duchess had showed no signs of illness prior to her collapse, and behaved normally when keepers left the night before. A post mortem will be held in the coming days to find the cause of her collapse. Paignton Zoo is in mourning after her death.

She had been at the zoo since 1977 (Picture: Paignton Zoo/SWNS)
She had been at the zoo since 1977 (Picture: Paignton Zoo/SWNS)

Simon Tonge, Executive Director of Paignton Zoo, was present throughout. He said : “ Duchess was once found collapsed in her barn at 8am. She was lying on her left side – with her good eye to the floor – and unable to stand, which was distressing for her keepers to see. When our vet team arrived, she was anaesthetised, so they could take a blood sample. They also gave her intravenous fluids. With assistance from members of the facilities team, keepers turned her over onto her right side in the hope that it might help if she could see better. Unfortunately, upon revival it was clear that the treatment and re-positioning had made no difference.”

Duchess was born in 1970 and came to Paignton Zoo in 1977 from Longleat Safari Park. She had been a staple of Paignton Zoo since she arrived there. Some of her keepers have worked with her for more than 25 years. Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “I’d known Duchess since I was a boy visiting Paignton Zoo. She was also a much loved character at the Zoo and will be missed by everyone.”

In 2012, she became the first elephant in the UK to have an eye removed after suffering from cataracts.

live love elephant 1
Duchess had an eye removed in 2012 (Picture: Paignton Zoo/SWNS)

Senior Head Keeper of Mammals Rob Rouse said: “When we found her, we put the heating on to make her more comfortable. Off duty keepers arrived to help and Jim Dicks, long-time elephant keeper who was very close to Duchess, was called in.”

“Our mammal, vet and facilities teams did Duchess and themselves proud, showing true dedication and care right up until the end.” 

“Everyone put their all into trying to save her but in the end the difficult decision to euthanize her was the only option.”

“It will be a difficult time whilst we adjust to losing Duchess in this way.” 

“It’s a shock to the whole team, in particular those who worked with her closely and she will be sadly missed, she was a massive part of our zoo family.”

Wild Elephants with relaxing music

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