Oregon Zoo euthanizes Asian elephant Packy - KPTV - FOX 12

Oregon Zoo euthanizes Asian elephant Packy

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courtesy Oregon Zoo courtesy Oregon Zoo
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Officials at the Oregon Zoo said that Packy, a nearly 55-year-old Asian elephant at the zoo, has died.

Zoo officials made the decision to humanely euthanize the animal after a prolonged search for treatment to a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis diagnosed last fall.

Staff at the zoo say it was a heart-wrenching decision.

“We loved Packy so much,” senior elephant keeper Bob Lee said. “He was my favorite - the most impressive animal I’ve ever known. It’s hard to think about coming in to work tomorrow and not seeing him. There will never be another like him.”

“We’d run out of options for treating him,” Oregon Zoo lead veterinarian Dr. Tim Storms added. “The remaining treatments involved side effects that would have been very hard on Packy with no guarantee of success, plus a risk of creating further resistance. None of us felt it would be right to do that. But without treatment, his TB would have continued to get worse.”

Storms said the zoo consulted with other veterinarians and pharmacists to search for answers and discuss the decision to euthanize Packy, though the additional help made the decision any easier.

“Anybody who’s had a sick or elderly pet knows how painful this can be, even if you know it’s the best thing for the animal,” he said.

Born on April 14, 1962, Packy earned international attention as the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. He was featured in Life magazine and inspired books, records and Rose Parade floats.

In addition to his cultural impact, zoo officials say the information learned during his birth and care helped shaped scientists understanding of Asian elephants.

“This is a tremendous loss for the entire community,” Oregon Zoo Director Dr. Don Moore said. “Packy was one of the most famous animals in the world, but to the people who live here, the people who grew up with him, he was family.”

Despite the loss of Packy, his legacy will continue at the zoo. From his birth in 1962 to the birth of his daughter Shine in 1982, more than 75 percent of Asian elephant births in North America happened in Portland.

“Packy’s birth started it all,” Lee said. “The focus on elephant welfare, the knowledge about elephants. If you think about the time when he was born, it’s mind-boggling - Kennedy was president, the Beatles hadn’t made any records yet, cigarettes didn’t have warnings from the Surgeon General. We’ve learned so much about elephants since then, and it never could have happened without Packy.”

Zoo officials said they are still planning a memorial event for Packy but did not have the details finalized. In the meantime, they ask people to leave their favorite memories on the zoo’s Facebook page.

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