Washington: Sujatha, a 47-year-old "beloved" Indian elephant at a zoo in the US state of California, has died after being euthanised due to old age complications, the Santa Barbara Zoo has announced.
Her companion of 46 years -- another elephant named Little Mac -- was given immediate access in order to grieve.
CEO Rich Block of the Santa Barbara Zoo said Sujatha's death "is perhaps the most difficult moment in 20 years" for him. Sujatha arrived at the zoo from India in 1972 at the age of one-and-a-half with Little Mac, Block said in a statement posted on the zoo's website.
"She had been a beloved member of the Santa Barbara community ever since," he said.
"It is with broken hearts that we announce the passing of 47-year-old Sujatha, one of the Santa Barbara Zoo's two Asian elephants," Block said.
At 47, Sujatha is considered elderly for her species and had been facing age-related challenges over the past three years, Block said. "We employed an array of treatments to address her challenges and pain, including laser therapy, stem cell treatments, physical therapy, hydrotherapy and medications.
"In the last two weeks, her health began to decline more dramatically. After exhausting all options to help Sujatha and following weeks of discussions, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize her last night (Tuesday)," he said.
Sujatha shared exceptionally close bonds with her keeper staff of many years, as well with her lifelong companion, Little Mac.
She died in the upper yard of her exhibit, surrounded by her keepers, veterinary personnel and support staff.
Immediately following, Little Mac was given access to Sujatha to grieve her companion of 46 years, Block said.
Sujatha has delighted generations of families who met her and inspired countless numbers of individuals to care more about the world around them, he said.
"She played an incredible role as an ambassador for her species, promoting awareness of the decline of her wild counterparts and just how vital it is that we protect them," the CEO said.
"This is a substantial loss for our community, for our staff, and for Little Mac. "Our primary focus now is the well-being of Little Mac, making sure she has plenty of support during this transitional time as we explore various options for her future," Block said.
He thanked people for sharing in Sujatha's legacy over the past 46 years and "for the continued support during this hard time". "She has left her mark on this community and has helped us all be more conscious, more connected, and more inspired than we were before," Elephant Manager Liz Beem said.