Oregon Zoo euthanizes 45-year-old Asian elephant Tusko - KPTV - FOX 12

Oregon Zoo euthanizes 45-year-old Asian elephant Tusko

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Tusko (Photo: Oregon Zoo) Tusko (Photo: Oregon Zoo)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The Oregon Zoo has euthanized 45-year-old Asian elephant Tusko.

Zoo staff said Tuesday it was determined they could no longer help with Tusko's pain and mobility issues stemming from a decades-old leg injury.

At around 13,000 pounds, Tusko was on one of largest bull elephants in the country, as well as one of the oldest males of his species.

Tusko, a former circus elephant, came to the Oregon Zoo in 2005.

Photos: Tusko the Oregon Zoo elephant

“This is a very sad day, especially for all the keepers and animal-care staff who have been close to Tusko through the years,” said Bob Lee, zoo elephant curator. “The ten years Tusko spent at the Oregon Zoo was the longest period he’d ever stayed in one place. We’re thankful we were able to give him a good home with our elephant family, and on a personal level I’m thankful I got the chance to know him.”

Keepers described Tusko as a bold and confident elephant that loved to test his limits and enjoyed spending time with the whole herd, which is not always the case with adult male elephants. He is the father of Oregon Zoo elephants Samudra and Lily.

Keepers gave him ibuprofen to help with swelling, Tramadol for pain, and treated him to hydrotherapy sessions, which included warm-water soaks, sometimes with Epsom salt. His joints were massaged with high-intensity spray and he was exercised daily to keep his weight down, the zoo reports.

However, zoo veterinarian Tim Storms said Tusko compensated for an old leg injury by placing more weight on his other legs, and it eventually caused too much pain.

In the past week, Tusko developed severe swelling and decreased flexibility on his right front foot, resulting in him no longer being able to put weight on it. Tusko was having great difficulty getting up and was using his trunk to help support his weight.

“It was obvious he was in a great deal of pain,” Storms said. “It was distressing to watch him trying to walk, and we felt we had run out of treatment options.”

Tusko was also diagnosed with tuberculosis in June 2014.

Tusko was born in Thailand around 1971, brought to Miami by an exotic animal importer in the early 1970s, and eventually sold to the Central Florida Zoo. In 1978, Tusko, originally named Sobik, was acquired by renowned animal trainer and circus performer Rex Williams. Williams gave him the name Tusko and featured the elephant in shows with Circus Vargas through most of the 1980s.

Tusko, as his name implied, did have impressive tusks at one time, according to the Oregon Zoo, though he broke both prior to coming to Portland. The remaining portion of his left tusk became chronically infected late in life, and in the spring of 2007, he underwent two surgeries to remove it.

Not all Asian elephants have tusks, and the poaching of elephants for their ivory has resulted in the “tusk gene” becoming increasingly rare, according to zoo staff.

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