Elderly Elephant Dies On Way To Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

An elderly elephant passed away while being transported from South Carolina to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the zoo announced Sunday.

"We are sad for both the community of Greenville, as they mourn the loss of an elephant they knew for almost her entire life, and for the community of Colorado Springs, who will never get a chance to meet her,” Cheyenne Mountain Zoo President and CEO Bob Chastain said in a statement.

Joni, or Joy as she was also called, spent her 44-year life in Greenville, S.C., but after her lifelong companion died, the Greenville Zoo decided she would have a better quality of life living among other elephants. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo had been selected due to their state-of-the-art elephant exhibit that catered specifically to maturing, non-reproductive elephants.

“We knew there was risk involved in transporting Joni because of her age, but we also knew that she deserved the very best end-of-life care, and we wanted the chance to give that to her," Chastain said.

The zoo says that having animal die while being transported is rare for Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions, but that age can increase the odds of complications.

In the statement released by the zoo, Chastain elaborated about Joni's death.

“In case of emergency, a car with Greenville Zoo’s veterinarian and head elephant keeper followed Joni all the way from South Carolina. They monitored her at every stop, and nine zoos along the way were on standby to help them if the need arose. Despite all the precautions taken, Joni passed so quickly that nothing could be done for her.

"The decision to move Joni (who was known to the Greenville community as “Joy”) from Greenville Zoo to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was made entirely with Joni’s best interest in mind. She had ailments that Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s veterinary and keeper staff were confident they could manage. The move was also vital because Joni was the sole remaining elephant at Greenville Zoo, and social interaction with a herd is imperative for an elephant’s mental well-being.

“Despite this loss, we still know in our hearts that moving Joni to Colorado was the right decision,” Chastain said. “If she had lived for another year or longer, it would have been unfair to her to have spent that time alone.”

Both the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Greenville Zoo will be performing a necropsy to determine cause of death.