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Zoo euthanizes Clara the elephant

St. Louis Zoo photo of Clara, with Raja (photo about nine years old)

By Tom Weber, KWMU


St. Louis, MO – Clara the elephant was put to death early Wednesday morning by officials at the St. Louis Zoo.

The zoo says the 54-year old animal had arthritis and wasn't responding to medicine.

"We will miss her greatly," said curator Martha Fischer, in a statement. "Those who cared for Clara every day are understandably grieving, but we are comforted by the knowledge that she had a long and fulfilled life, leading our herd for so many years."

The zoo considered Clara the matriarch of the elephant herd and says she played a key role in the herd. Clara first came to the St. Louis Zoo in 1955.

Clara had been the subject of protests by animal rights groups, who said the animal should have been moved to a sanctuary and out of a zoo setting. But the zoo always maintained she had a high quality of life and noted that her age, 54, was well beyond the normal life expectancy of about 44 for Asian elephants in both the wild and in captivity.

For years, Clara was a part of the zoo's animal shows, which continued until 1992, the year Raja was born. The zoo also notes Clara was the first to meet and greet the newborn Raja and, as leader of the herd, helped the rest of the elephants feel comfortable around the calf.

To hear an interview with Eric Miller, a senior Vice President at the zoo, click on the 'listen' icon above.


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