Shannon the African elephant, 35, dies at the Topeka Zoo

In tears, Topeka Zoo director announces that Shannon the elephant has died

Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley fought back tears as he announced on Monday, December 11, 2017, that Shannon the elephant has died.
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Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley fought back tears as he announced on Monday, December 11, 2017, that Shannon the elephant has died.

A 35-year-old African elephant named Shannon died Monday at the Topeka Zoo.

The 5,500-pound animal, was found lying on her side for the second day in a row.

The Topeka Fire Department used straps and other equipment to lift her to an upright position, but the animal expired, the zoo announced in a tweet at 11:06 a.m.

Director Brendan Wiley, who used to work at the Kansas City Zoo, discussed the animal’s death in a video posted on Facebook. He said crews lifted the elephant to its feet and were hydrating her and giving her medicine.

“Sometime things turn quickly, and just a few minutes ago her body just gave out and she took her last breath,” Wiley said.

“We’ve got to allow our elephants to go through the mourning process,” Wiley added.

The zoo has three other elephants.

Wiley said the veterinarian staff would begin a necropsy Monday afternoon. Normally, animals that die at the zoo are cremated, but Wiley said the zoo will consider a company that prepares animal specimens for educational purposes.

“There’s a lot of people who are very saddened by what we experienced,” the director said.

People posted condolences on the Topeka city Facebook page.

“There is a VERY SPECIAL PLACE in HEAVEN for sweet SHANNON...,” posted Rob Scofield. “ Pray for the other elephants ( as they grieve) and people too...esp zoo staff. She was my favorite!

Earlier Monday the zoo posted updates on Shannon’s condition:

“If driving by the zoo, you may have seen a lot of emergency vehicles and if you visited the zoo today, you may not have been able to get into our animals and man building. Usually, when you see emergency vehicles, it is because we are running a drill. Today, these training sessions paid off.

“When staff arrived this morning, they found Shannon, the 35 year old African elephant lying on the ground with the other elephants standing around her in guarding positions. Normal encouragement for her to stand up was unsuccessful and we knew we had to put out [sic] training into place. Elephants do not typically lie down for extended periods of time, partially due to their body mass. If an elephant lies down for too long, body processes can begin that may cause the elephant to die.

“The Topeka Fire Department was called as well as the Animal Search and Rescue team of the Emergency Equine Response Unit/ASAR. We have practiced drills with these groups over the past several years and they both rose to action and knew what to do along with our staff.

“Thankfully, the drills with these three teams have paid off. We wre [sic] able to get straps under her belly and erect a large tripod over here [sic] to help get her upright using the rigging system. Once the majority of her weight was off the ground, we were able to administer an enema to help keep her hydrated. After a few attempts and encouragement from the elephant staff, Shannon was able to stand up on her own. Once standing, she was released from the straps that helped her stand and then she proceeded to eat hay and fruit and vegetable treats.

“At this time we are uncertain what kept her from being able to get up. During this procedure, staff were able to retrieve blood samples that hopefully may help us decipher the underlying cause. She continues to eat and drink, but she will be kept inside today to monitor her more closely. We will continue to keep a careful eye on her and hopefully the samples we were able to get today will provide more insight.

“This morning we walked into what we thought might turn out to be a devastating scenario. Thankfully, the teamwork, experience, and execution from the Topeka Fire Department and the Equine Emergency Response Unit and our own staff was nothing short of amazing.

“A huge thank you to our crews today and to everyone for your well wishes for Shannon.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal said Shannon and Cora, a 59-year-old Asian elephant, arrived at the Topeka Zoo in August 2016. They joined Sunda, 58, and Tembo, 48, who were already at the zoo.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC