According to the zoo, the elephant's mother Rani remained close to her calf during his brief life

By Benjamin VanHoose
August 03, 2020 12:46 PM
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Joshua Sydney-Smith/St. Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing sad news about the loss of an Asian elephant calf who was just shy of 1 month old.

On Sunday, the baby animal, who was born July 6 with developmental impairments, was humanely euthanized after the zoo's elephant care team of experts and veterinarians attempted to nurse the calf to full health.

Elephant mother Rani, 23, remained at her little one's side, according to the zoo, as keepers worked around the clock to care for the calf. Rani shared the offspring with Raja, a 27-year-old bull elephant.

The newborn's developmental impairments limited his ability to feed since birth, and despite intensive care efforts and life support measures — including assistance with feedings and continuous intravenous treatments — the calf's quality of life did not improve.

In the animal's final two days before his death, his already compromised health deteriorated rapidly, the zoo reports.

"Everyone here is just devastated right now," Jeffrey P. Bonner, president and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, said in a press release. "Our team of professional elephant care experts did everything possible to help improve the calf's health. Unfortunately, in the end, it just wasn't enough as his health complications were too severe."

The 27-day-old elephant was named Avi, which means "the sun and air."

Madi Culbertson/St. Louis Zoo
Katie Pilgram-Kloppe/St. Louis Zoo

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"The animal care team who worked so closely with this calf every day of his short life, and all those who loved him, are understandably grieving," said Luis Padilla, vice president of animal collections for the Saint Louis Zoo. "Avi will be missed, but never forgotten."

"The community followed Rani's journey from pregnancy to birth and provided support and positive thoughts for the calf and the Elephant Care Team when they learned of the calf's developmental and health impairments," Padilla continued. "The outpouring of support that we have received from the community has been incredible. I know everyone joins us in our sense of loss, and that helps our team get through these difficult times."

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Announcing the calf's birth in July, the zoo said it was the first time in 27 years that a male Asian elephant was born at the facility.

"Rani and baby are doing very well," Tim Thier, director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Asian Elephant Conservation, said in a press release at the time. "We’re thrilled to welcome Raja’s first son into our three-generation elephant family."

The calf's mother, Rani, is part of a 10-member, three-generation elephant family that includes Avi, Ellie (her mother), Maliha, Jade (her daughter), Priya, Donna, Sri, Pear and Raja, all of whom live at the zoo’s River’s Edge and Elephant Woods habitats.