Rani, a 27-year-old Asian elephant at the St. Louis Zoo in Missouri, tragically passed away after a loose dog entered the zoo and scared her to death.
What happened: At 3:39 p.m. on Oct. 13, a small dog was seen running around in a non-public area near the Elephant Barn. Although Rani did not directly encounter the dog, the canine’s presence caused her distress due to the vocalizations of the herd. The dog was immediately captured by the Elephant Care team and handed over to a shelter.
Rani’s death: Rani eventually collapsed and died around 20 minutes after the dog’s intrusion. Preliminary necropsy results showed pre-existing heart changes in Rani. Further testing is ongoing to understand the significance of these changes.
“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” St. Louis Zoo Director Michael Macek said in a statement. “Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”
About Rani: Rani was a cherished member of the zoo’s elephant family, known for her unique squeaking noise when socializing with her relatives. Rani and her mother, Ellie, arrived at the zoo in July 2001, at age 5 and 29 respectively, as part of conservation efforts for the endangered Asian elephant species. Rani leaves behind three calves: Jade, Kenzi and Avi.
“Rani was a special member of this elephant family group,” said Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, zoological manager of River’s Edge. “She loved playing with her sisters Maliha and Priya. While growing up here in St. Louis, she got to learn from her own mom, Ellie, on how to be an amazing mother herself. She had a great relationship with her animal care team and all of the other elephants.”
St. Louis Zoo: According to the St. Louis Zoo, the rest of the elephant herd has since calmed down and are doing well.
There are reportedly less than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and they are threatened by habitat loss and poaching, leading to the risk of extinction. To address the pressing issue, the St. Louis Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of the endangered species. The zoo is currently home to a three-generation family of Asian elephants.