Thanksgiving celebrations will be muted at Zoo Miami this year. On Wednesday morning Maude, a 41-year old Asian elephant at the popular South Miami-Dade attraction, died while receiving treatment for a severe digestive impaction. Essentially, Maude appears to have died of constipation.
“I’ve had better days,” sighed zoo communications director Ron Magill on Wednesday. He said Maude, who was brought to Zoo Miami from Central Florida three years ago to be a companion to another female elephant, began behaving strangely last week. She stopped eating and having bowel movements, and began eating sand and clay– something that Magill said elephants often do in the wild to get minerals they need, but which apparently proved fatal for Maude. Elephants normally produce 200 to 400 pounds of feces a day.
Zoo workers tried various treatments without success. The fact that the middle-aged Maude also suffered from arthritis, making it hard for her to move around and keep her digestive system active, made her condition worse, Magill said.
During a treatment session at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Maude collapsed and passed away in less than a minute. A partial necropsy (animal autopsy) revealed that her digestive tract was packed with sand and clay.
Maude leaves behind Nellie, her 45-year old companion, and three other elephants. Magill says the elephant keepers were also very fond of her. “It was very abrupt, very traumatic for everyone. Elephants are very charismatic, they’re considered very intelligent animals. There’s something magnificent about them.”
Maude’s death was the second for the zoo. Earlier this week, the second of three lion cubs born in September died.