Preliminary Results Fail to Determine Cause of Elephant Collapse

Preliminary Results Fail to Determine Cause of Elephant Collapse

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Preliminary results of a post-mortem on Wankie have failed to show the cause of the elephant's collapse en route to Hogle Zoo.

Tissue samples may reveal more about what caused the elephant to collapse while riding in a metal crate somewhere in Nebraska, Craig Dinsmore, Hogle Zoo executive director, said Monday.

Tests of those samples could take six weeks.

The remains of the 35-year-old African elephant have been buried in an undisclosed, secure location.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun an investigation into Wankie's death, spokesman Darby Holladay said.

The elephant died in Salt Lake City hours after completing a 1,400-mile trip from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo.

Wankie's final hours were spent surrounded by 20 zoo workers and veterinarians as she rested in a massive sling supporting her weight.

"It was a monumental effort," said Dinsmore, who helped staffers work through the night in an attempt to save the 7,000-pound animal.

Lincoln Park Zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath said Sunday that a veterinarian and two elephant keepers accompanied Wankie on the 1,400-mile journey from Chicago to Salt Lake City. McGrath said Wankie appeared healthy as she was loaded into a truck on Friday, but zoo officials became concerned when she laid down during the trip.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the flatbed truck arrived at Hogle Zoo and a crane lifted Wankie's crate into the zoo.

Wankie could not walk out.

"She never got into the building," Dinsmore said.

Zoo staff wove two nylon straps around her. The straps, attached to the crane, dragged and lifted the elephant from her crate.

Realizing she could not put weight on her rear legs, staff placed a sling under her. The crane lifted the pachyderm into various positions to support part of her immense weight as she stood.

"For hours, we massaged her legs and use hydrotherapy to warm her leg muscles," Dinsmore said.

Eventually, the staff decided to euthanize her. They were concerned the elephant was in pain and had exhausted options to help her. Veterinarians administered drugs to kill the elephant at about 4 a.m.

Animal rights activists who protested the decision to send Wankie to the Salt Lake City zoo instead of to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., said she might have survived the 500-mile trip to the sanctuary.

Chris Diener of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition led a small protest Wednesday against Hogle Zoo in anticipation of the Wankie's arrival.

"I don't think 'I told you so' is good enough," he said Monday. Diener and other coalition members held a vigil at the zoo late Monday.

The San Diego Zoo, which owned Wankie, and the American Zoological and Aquarium Association made the decision to move the elephant to Hogle Zoo after her two companions , Peaches and Tatima, died late last year and earlier this year. The elephants had been on loan to the Lincoln Park Zoo since 2003, San Diego Zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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