'Little Diamond,' NC Zoo's long-time elephant, dies

06/18/2014 1:37 PM

06/18/2014 2:21 PM

One of the N.C. Zoo’s longtime residents, an African elephant named Little Diamond, has died of a stomach ailment.

Diamond was well-known in the U.S. community as the first African elephant born in North America, zoo spokesman Rod Hackney said Wednesday. She was born at the Knoxville Zoo in 1978 and joined the herd at the N.C. Zoological Park near Asheboro in May 1995.

Ken Reininger, the zoo’s general curator, said Diamond began to show signs of digestive distress on Friday. She stopped eating and became lethargic, and her condition worsened despite treatment, according to zoo Chief Veterinarian Mike Loomis.

She died Tuesday evening at the zoo.

“Little Diamond had been part of our elephant family for 20 years,” Zoo Director David Jones said. “This is a very sad loss.”

A necropsy completed Wednesday found an impacted large intestine, caused by the ingestion of sand. Sand is a common substrate used in zoo elephant holding facilities and exhibits.

The zoo’s six remaining elephants, including four females and two males, remain in good condition and on exhibit. They range in age from 12 to 40.

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