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Santa Barbara Zoo elephant dies at age 48

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Posted at 10:36 AM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 21:38:36-04

The Santa Barbara Zoo's last elephant, Little Mac, has died.

Zoo officials say the 48-year-old Asian elephant was humanely euthanized Wednesday evening.

Her carcass was reportedly taken to the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino where a necropsy will be performed.

Zoo officials say the results of the necropsy will take several weeks and "will contribute to ongoing research into the health and welfare of elephants under human care."

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Little Mac

Little Mac was recently placed under hospice care because of ongoing medical issues and a decline in her overall health.

"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 continued to decline in spite of our best efforts, especially in the past two weeks," said Dr. Julie Barnes, Vice President of Animal Care and Health at the Santa Barbara Zoo. "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."

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Little Mac

Little Mac's death marks the end of the zoo's elephant program.

The zoo's other elephant, Sujatha, died last year at the age of 47.

The two had lived together at the Santa Barbara Zoo since 1972.

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Sujatha and Little Mac at the zoo in the 1970s

According to the zoo, Sujatha was born to a working mother in an Indian logging camp and Little Mac was found orphaned in a nearby forest. They came to the Santa Barbara Zoo in exchange for six California sea lions. Herb Peterson, the owner of several local McDonald's restaurants at the time, paid for the elephants to be flown from India. He also named Little Mac after the "Big Mac" hamburger.

Neither elephant ever bred or produced offspring. Both exceeded the median life expectancy of 46.9 years for Asian elephants in human care.

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Sujatha (l) and Little Mac (r)

Early last week, zoo officials say Little Mac's keepers noticed a change in the color of her dung and tests indicated that there was bleeding in her intestines. The zoo consulted with multiple veterinarians but no diagnosis was reached and after exhausting treatment options, Little Mac began receiving hospice care. The zoo says animal care staff treated her symptoms, provided her with drugs to keep her comfortable, and offered her usual training and activities.

Donations in memory of Little Mac and Sujatha can be made to the International Elephant Foundation or to the Zoo's Toys4Animals Amazon Wish List. Gifts of organic, pesticide-free tree trimmings and branches for other animals at the Zoo are also welcome. Go to for more information on how to donate.