Hanako, an Asian elephant who was a fixture at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium for more than 20 years, was euthanized Saturday evening after a “severe decline in her health,” the Tacoma zoo announced. She was 56.
Hanako was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and tuberculosis in 2019. She also suffered from advanced joint disease and had stopped eating her regular diet. Zoo officials also said she showed signs of “significant discomfort,” despite pain medication.
“With Hanako’s advanced age, significant and chronic medical conditions, and severe decline in health, euthanasia was the humane decision,” said Dr. Karen Wolf, the zoo’s head veterinarian, in a statement. “Through intensive treatments, we were able to slow the progression of Hanako’s cancer and make her comfortable for a long period of time.”
At 56, Hanako had lived beyond the median life expectancy of 47 for females of her species in human care, according to a news release, which cited statistics from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
Hanako came to the zoo in 1997. Suki, the zoo’s other Asian elephant, is 55. Zoo staff plan for her to live out her life in the Asian forest sanctuary elephant habitat.
“We have lost a treasured member of our zoo family and beloved icon of our community,” Karen Goodrowe, general curator of the zoo, said in a statement. “Our hearts are heavy. Hanako was a magnificent ambassador for her species, and we will greatly miss her.”