Little Mac, the Santa Barbara Zoo's last elephant, is now receiving hospice care following a decline in her physical condition over the past two weeks.
Little Mac is a 48-year-old Asian elephant who was brought to Santa Barbara Zoo in 1972.
Over the past few months, zoo officials say she has suffered intermittent gastrointestinal issues since a bout of colic and as a result has lost weight.
Last week, tests detected blood in Little Mac's dung, which she is being treated for. She also receives treatments for several ongoing medical conditions common in geriatric elephants, such as chronic arthritis.
Zoo officials say that after exhausting treatment options, Little Mac is being kept comfortable for as long as possible. Her hospice care includes treating her symptoms, providing her with drugs to increase her comfort, and engaging her with her usual training, if she chooses.
"Just as with a beloved family member, we needed to take time to explore all options and make the best possible decision," said Zoo President/CEO Rich Block. "This is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for or have worked toward. It is time to start considering euthanasia as a compassionate and respectful option for her. We've gone public about this to allow all of us to begin to cope with her passing."
When Little Mac arrived at the Zoo in 1972, she was also joined by her companion Sujatha. The zoo's elephant exhibit was especially designed for the two female elephants. Sujatha died on October 16 of last year at 47 years old.
At 48, Little Mac has exceeded the median life expectancy for Asian elephants in human care, which is 46.9 years.
Donations in Little Mac's memory can be made to the International Elephant Foundation.