Local News

36-year-old elephant at NC zoo dies

Posted June 18, 2014

Little Diamond, a 36-year-old elephant at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, died June 17, 2014. (Courtesy of North Carolina Zoo)

— A 36-year-old African elephant at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro has died, the zoo said Wednesday.

Zoo spokesman Rod Hackney said Little Diamond stopped eating and became lethargic last week and that her health declined over the next five days.

She died Tuesday evening.

An animal autopsy found the elephant had an impacted large intestine as a result of ingesting sand, which is common in elephant-holding facilities and exhibits.

Little Diamond, the first African elephant born in North America, had been at the zoo since 1995, when she was transferred from the Knoxville Zoo.

She was one of seven elephants at the North Carolina Zoo. The remaining elephants – four females and two males ranging in age from 12 to 40 – are in good condition and on exhibit, Hackney said.

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


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  • Kim Plucker Jun 19, 2014
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    This is why they should not be in a zoo.

  • Jason Galarneau Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    I have read that the NC zoo is the largest land holding zoo in the world, yet the elephants are kept on small acreage for the viewing public. I would much rather they actually use some of the undeveloped land for these large animals to roam and forage as they like to do and perhaps charge a bit more for a tram to drive through the larger habitat. I was there last month and all the elephants were covered in clay and standing on dirt. It is not a surprise that Little Diamond ingested sand when the enclosure has little forage to offer. After a few days of not eating, something could have been done to detect and rectify the blockage. Someone is dropping the ball.

  • Huey Jun 18, 2014

    Bless her heart.

  • lovecary Jun 18, 2014

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    7 elephants in a 3 acre enclosure is the next thing to being caged. Elephants need space. They are known to walk up to 15 miles per day. Along with their regular diets, they need access to trees and vegetation to stay healthy.

  • Geez Louise Jun 18, 2014

    I'd probably eat sand too if I were stuck in a zoo and bored out of my mind. Poor animal.

  • cynicaljill Jun 18, 2014

    You people are really uninformed when it comes to animals in zoos and their care.
    The reason they are in zoos in the first place is mainly education/breeding. Do you actually think if the keepers KNEW they were eating sand they would have put it there in the first place? Do you think they treat these animals like a typical dog or cat? No, they are valuable to the institution and to the program as a whole. They are not going along their day frivolously taking care of these animals. Instead of criticizing institutions for having animals in "cages" question why are they there in the first place? Hate to tell you that a lot of the rescues you donate to are money scammers and BREED for more animals so there is MORE money.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jun 18, 2014

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    Obviously you've never been to the NC Zoo in Asheboro.

    While I detest zoos, the animals at the NC Zoo are NOT in cages. They are in areas designed as close to their natural habitat as it is possible to duplicate in NC.

    Still, if they PREVIOUSLY KNEW elephants in zoo-type exhibits ingest sand, why'd they leave sand where she could eat it then???


  • LovemyPirates Jun 18, 2014

    freedomrings - Have you ever been to the NC Zoo? This isn't a traditional zoo in any way. Not everyone can afford a trip to Africa or Asia to see elephants in the wild and to see elephants there, you have to go to a game preserve where they are fenced in - large fences but fences none the less.

  • Chase Truman Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    While I see where you're coming from, please keep in mind that these animals aren't just plucked from the wild and thrown into cages. The majority of animals you see in zoos and other facilities (at least the good ones) were either born in captivity and don't know how to live in the wild, or were injured while living in the wild and the injury was so severe they couldn't be released back or they would die.

    These places actually do these animals a good service by allowing them to live instead of being euthanized or die a horrible death in the wild from starvation or attack. From personal experience, I know that zoo keepers are not in the job for the money; they genuinely love and care about the welfare of these animals and do everything in their power to give them as good a life as possible in captivity.

  • Janet Scott Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    I agree that they shouldn't put sand in elephant exhibits...geez!!
    She is now free and happy, I know.