"The zoo's Elephant Care Team of keepers and veterinarians worked around the clock to provide the best care for the new calf and his mother, Rani, who was near her calf at every moment," the zoo said in a statement.
The Saint Louis Zoo is grieving the death of an Asian elephant calf named Avi who was just a few days away from turning a month old. Born on July 6, the male calf had developmental impairments that limited his ability to feed, and after weeks of life support measures by the Elephant Care Team, he was humanely euthanized on Sunday. The calf's birth was a historic event at the zoo as it was the first time in 27 years that a male Asian elephant was born at the facility.
"The Saint Louis Zoo is saddened to announce that the male Asian elephant calf born on July 6, 2020, has died. The decision to humanely euthanize the calf was made and he passed away peacefully this morning, August 2, 2020. The zoo's Elephant Care Team of keepers and veterinarians worked around the clock to provide the best care for the new calf and his mother, Rani, who was near her calf at every moment," the zoo said in a statement. "The calf had developmental impairments that limited his ability to feed since birth. Despite intensive care efforts and life support measures, including assistance with feedings and continuous intravenous treatments, the calf did not improve. Over the last 48 hours, the calf's already compromised health deteriorated rapidly."
"Everyone here is just devastated right now," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., CEO of the St. Louis Zoo. "Our team of professional elephant care experts did everything possible to help improve the calf's health. Unfortunately, in the end, it just wasn't enough as his health complications were too severe." The zoo revealed that despite having been in their midst for only 27 days, the calf made quite the impression on the Elephant Care Team "which had prepared for his arrival for almost three years. The keepers named him Avi (pronounced AH-vee), which means 'the sun and air.'"
"The animal care team who worked so closely with this calf every day of his short life, and all those who loved him, are understandably grieving," said Luis Padilla, DVM, Vice President of Animal Collections, Saint Louis Zoo. "Avi will be missed but never forgotten. The community followed Rani's journey from pregnancy to birth and provided support and positive thoughts for the calf and the Elephant Care Team when they learned of the calf's developmental and health impairments. The outpouring of support that we have received from the community has been incredible. I know everyone joins us in our sense of loss, and that helps our team get through these difficult times."
The zoo's veterinary team will conduct a full necropsy on the elephant and the results won't be available for several weeks, the statement said. Avi was born to Rani and the zoo's bull elephant, 27-year-old Raja, who was the first Asian elephant ever born at the facility in 1992. While Avi was Raja's fifth offspring, he was the third calf birthed by Rani, who was born at the Jacksonville Zoo in 1996. His breeding was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan, a national cooperative breeding and management program responsible for maintaining a genetically healthy population of Asian elephants in North American zoos.
"An elephant pregnancy lasts about 22 months and a newborn weighs about 250-350 pounds. Rani received regular prenatal health checkups by the Zoo's elephant care team throughout her pregnancy," the zoo stated. There are less than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild and the number is constantly declining, as they face extinction due to poaching for ivory and habitat destruction.