The 54-year-old Asian elephant made headlines in 1962 when he became the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years.
PORTLAND — Packy, the Asian elephant who drew international attention when he was born in 1962, including an 11-page spread in Life magazine, died Thursday at the Oregon Zoo.
Packy was born April 14, 1962, making headlines as the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. At the time of his death, he was the oldest male of his species in North America.
The elephant had been suffering from a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis and was euthanized after veterinarians failed to come up with an alternative treatment.
Glamour Beasts: The dark side of elephant captivityClick here or on the photo above to see The Seattle Times’ 2012 investigation into elephant deaths in U.S. zoos.
Seattle’s elephantsElephants from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo were moved to the Oklahoma City Zoo in 2015 after a bruising political and court fight. Activists had wanted the elephants transferred to a sanctuary in California.
- March 5, 2015: Seattle City Council won’t block elephants’ move to Oklahoma
- March 8, 2015: Jerry Large: Animal rights and why they matter
- March 9, 2015: Who owns Seattle’s elephants? Suit challenges zoo’s control
- March 16, 2015: How much does it cost to move two elephants? $111,000
- April 7, 2015: Federal judge ‘troubled’ by OKC Zoo, but won’t block elephants’ move
- April 15, 2015: Elephants loaded on trucks for move
- Photo gallery: The move from Seattle
- Jan. 30, 2016: Chai, elephant at heart of zoo fight, dies at 37
- Photo gallery: Chai, a life in captivity
“We’d run out of options for treating him,” Dr. Tim Storms, the zoo’s lead veterinarian, said. “The remaining treatments involved side effects that would have been very hard on Packy with no guarantee of success, plus a risk of creating further resistance.
“None of us felt it would be right to do that. But without treatment, his TB would have continued to get worse.”
Word that Packy was going to be put down leaked to animal-rights advocates. The group In Defense of Elephants issued a statement Tuesday urging people to plea for his life.
“If Packy really is not suffering, the zoo owes him hospice, not death,” the group’s president, Marilyn Kroplick, said. “Research shows that elephants are self-aware and conscious animals. Oregon Zoo brought Packy into the world and profited from him; now they need to provide the care he needs.”
From the time of Packy’s birth to that of his daughter, Shine, in 1982, Portland was the birthplace for 21 of the 27 Asian elephants born in North America.
“Packy’s birth started it all,” elephant curator Bob Lee said. “The focus on elephant welfare, the knowledge about elephants. If you think about the time when he was born, it’s mind-boggling — Kennedy was president, the Beatles hadn’t made any records yet, cigarettes didn’t have warnings from the Surgeon General.
“We’ve learned so much about elephants since then, and it never could have happened without Packy.”