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Hanoko the elephant euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Officials at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium say an Asian elephant  that spent more than 20 years at the facility was euthanized Saturday night.

Hanako the elephant, photo courtesy Point Defiance Zoo

The zoo says Hanoko the elephant was 56 years old and had suffered a “severe decline in her health.”

The Tacoma News Tribune reports veterinarians diagnosed Hanoko with cancer in 2018 and with tuberculosis in 2019. Zoo officials say she suffered from advanced joint disease and had stopped eating her regular diet.

Hanako came to Point Defiance Zoo in 1997. She got plenty of exercise for her mind and body, received enrichments from her care team ranging from activities to tasty treats, took joy in giving herself mud baths and splashing in her pool, and voluntarily learned behaviors that aided in her health care.

When it became difficult for Hanako to chew her food, her animal care team mulched her hay. They subsequently found a special blend that was easier to eat so Hanako could get the steady sources of the nutrition she needed. Elephants have six sets of teeth during their lifetimes. When they reach the last one, as Hanako had, the act of eating eventually wears the teeth down, making it difficult for the elephant to chew.

Pain medication had not eased her discomfort.

The zoo says the median life expectancy for female Asian elephants in human care is 47 years.

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