One of the elephants that was moved from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo to the Oklahoma City Zoo has died.
The staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden announced that female Asian elephant Chai, 37, was found dead in the elephant yard Saturday morning.
Chai arrived at the Zoo last May, along with 48-year-old, female Asian elephant, Bamboo, from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
"Everybody is really sad and surprised and shocked," said Woodland Park Zoo spokesman David Schaefer.
The Oklahoma City Zoo said Chai received regular wellness checkups and routine observations from keepers.
"Yesterday, last night, she looked great, eating normally, behavior was fine," said Tara Henson, the director of Public Relations at the Oklahoma Zoo.
The Zoo said the median life expectancy for female Asian elephant is 47 years of age. Veterinary staff will be performing a necropsy (animal autopsy) to help determine the cause of death. Initial results may not be available until early next week.
"It's really hard for us," said Henson. "We think of these animals as part of our family and we take that very seriously."
The Zoo said the remaining elephant herd is behaving normally.
Chai was the mother of Hansa, who was born at Woodland Park Zoo in 2000 and died six years later of elephant herpes virus.
PETA calls for exhibit to be shut down
PETA on Sunday issued a statement, saying "Chai did not have to die this way, in this crowded zoo, when she had had a chance to live in a sanctuary and be watched over and cared for. She endured a lifetime of unthinkable violations, including at least 112 instances of artificial insemination. Less than a year ago, the Woodland Park Zoo denied her the chance of a real retirement and sent her to the Oklahoma City Zoo, where an elephant calf died in October of a highly fatal disease associated with captive elephants. For the sake of these elephants' health and safety, PETA is calling for this elephant exhibit to be shut down immediately and for the elephants to finally be sent to an accredited sanctuary, where they will never die alone and unassisted as Chai did."