bronx zoo elephant maxine

Maxine, a 48-year-old Asian elephant, was euthanized on Tuesday. 

Julie Larsen Maher

The Bronx Zoo announced on Tuesday that it has euthanized an elephant who was no longer able to eat due to a progressive illness.

Maxine, a 48-year-old Asian elephant, had been at the zoo for 45 years after coming there in 1973.

Some employees have known and worked alongside Maxine for more than 40 years, said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo and executive vice president of Wildlife Conservation Society, in a statement.

“We have great memories of Maxine; she was a wonderful animal with a great personality. She was loved by those who cared for her each day as well as the millions of visitors she inspired in over four decades at the Bronx Zoo,” he said. “This was a really difficult day for all of us at the zoo. Caring for animals is a great privilege and a great responsibility; we made a commitment to provide the best care for Maxine 45 years ago and today we met our final obligation to her.”

 

Maxine the elephant was being treated for “elevated liver and kidney enzymes and had experienced neurologic deterioration and generalized muscle weakness,” according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is based at the Bronx Zoo and manages that zoo as well as the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium.

The zoo decided to euthanize Maxine in Tuesday, per the society, because she was no longer able to eat.

Elephants at the Bronx Zoo

Now, the Bronx Zoo has two remaining elephants: Happy, 47, and Patty, 48.

Patty had lived with Maxine since they both first arrived at the zoo, according to Breheny. 

“We spent today with Patty and Happy monitoring their behavior and reaction to Maxine’s death,” he said. “They seem to be coping well with the situation. We will continue to watch them closely. 

Happy had previously lived with an elephant named Grumpy, who was fatally injured in 2002.

In 2006, the Bronx Zoo announced that it would end its elephant program when its remaining elephants died, choosing to help endangered elephants in the wild rather than replenish the elephants in captivity. 

bronx zoo | bronx zoo elephants
Bronx Zoo. Getty Images

In the wake of Maxine’s death, the Bronx Zoo will assess its elephant program.

“The plan we develop for our elephants moving forward will be based on our expertise in elephant behavior and husbandry, veterinary evaluation — and, most of all, on an intimate, in-depth understanding of our individual animals and their needs,” he said.

In October, animal welfare group the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a legal petition in Orleans County saying that Happy had similar rights to a human being and should be relocated from the Bronx Zoo to a private sanctuary with more space. The Bronx Zoo said that Happy was content and might actually suffer from a transfer. 

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