A nearly lifelong resident of Santa Barbara Zoo said her final goodbyes to her caretakers Wednesday night. The 48-year-old elephant named Little Mac was euthanized after zookeepers said her health "sharply declined" after being placed in hospice care earlier in the week.
The zoo announced the loss Thursday on Twitter, saying Little Mac had faced "age-related issues for years." They said the elephant was considered geriatric, as the life expectancy of Asian elephants in human care is 46.9 years.
"The Zoo team worked tirelessly with outside vets/experts to treat her, but Mac's health declined beyond the help of any medical treatments," they wrote of the Asian elephant.
Little Mac had been dealing with worsening health issues since mid-June, when she was diagnosed with colic, according to the zoo. Since then, she had lost weight, displayed lower activity levels, was less engaged and suffered from a loss of appetite. The zoo also reported she was being treated for chronic arthritis and for intestinal bleeding.
Santa Barbara Zoo's vice president of animal care and health, Julie Barnes, said Little Mac's issues "especially" declined over the past two weeks.
"She faced chronic challenges with her teeth and arthritis in her legs, but her overall condition began declining in June due to the onset of additional medical problems," she said. "We had exhausted the medical options available that would allow her to have a good quality of life. It was time to let her go."
Little Mac had lived at the zoo since she was a year-and-a-half old alongside another Asian elephant named Sujatha. Both were brought from Mysore, India, in exchange for six California sea lions. Sujatha was euthanized last year at 47 years old for age-related issues, the zoo said.
Since the owner of several McDonald's restaurants in Santa Barbara paid the airfare for the elephants to be settled at the zoo, he was allowed to name one of the elephant calfs. He bestowed Little Mac with her name as the McDonald's "Big Mac" had recently been released.
Neither elephant reproduced and the zoo said that Little Mac's death will close the elephant program that was opened 47 years ago.
There are memorial pages for both elephants on the zoo's website.
"They've been important ambassadors for their wild counterparts, providing invaluable education, connection, and joy to every person who met them," the zoo tweeted. "They will never be forgotten."