Elephant Dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Umoya was known as the only elephant to walk backward in the exhibit, keepers said

View Comments ()



    San Diego Zoo Safari Park
    Elephants were given time to mourn Umoya according to zoo staff.

    Sad news from San Diego Zoo's Safari Park: One of its African elephants has died after an apparent fight.

    According to the North County Times, our media partner, 21-year old Umoya was found lying on the ground before the park opened Wednesday.

    Elephant Dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    [DGO] Elephant Dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
    On Friday, zookeepers said they believed her death was the result of a fight with another elephant. Danya Bacchus reports (Published Friday, Nov. 18, 2011)

    Umoya had severe injuries and couldn't get up according to a zoo spokesperson. She died before veterinarians could get to her.

    Zoo officials believe the injuries were the result of an “aggressive interaction” with another elephant. The cause of the death is still under investigation though, and the results may take weeks to come back.

    Elephants in the park were given time to mourn Umoya Thursday afternoon, as elephants in the wild are known to mourn their dead, according to the zoo’s blog.

    Some elephants touched her with their trunks, or stood next to her quietly, the blog read. Her calves, Phakamile and Emanti also stood by her side momentarily, but were led away by other elephants in the herd.

    A new calf in September brought the number of the park's elephant herd to 18. Umoya was one of seven elephants from Swaziland in 2003. She was known as the only elephant to walk backward in the exhibit, keepers said.

    The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement Friday demanding the Zoo Safari Park close its elephant exhibit along with other animal facilities.

    "PETA is concerned that warning signs of internal conflict within the zoo's artificial herd were ignored by zoo staff and that Umoya's death, which has left her two babies orphaned, may have been preventable," the organization said in a written release.

    The zoo has been considering sending some of its elephants to a zoo in Tucson, Ariz. to help diversity the elephant population.

    Umoya gave birth to the calf Emanti in May 2010, one of four males born at the park that year.

    The park recently announced one of its six gorillas had died. Alberta had spent nearly its entire life at the park and was handraised by staff. She was found dead on Friday, Oct. 14.  

    Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.