Pittsburgh Zoo's baby elephant dies

PITTSBURGH — UPDATE (8/30/17): The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium's baby elephant has died, zoo officials announced Wednesday.

“Our hearts are broken, it’s just devastating,” Dr. Barbara Baker, the zoo’s president and CEO, said. “She touched so many people in such a short time. We did everything we possibly could to care for her, but unfortunately in the end, it just wasn’t enough.”

PHOTOS: Pittsburgh Zoo introduces elephant calf to public

TIMELINE: A look at the life of the Pittsburgh Zoo's baby elephant

STORY: PETA calling on Pittsburgh Zoo to end elephant program

The elephant stopped eating while teething and a feeding tube was inserted. Officials said the calf initially responded well to the feeding tube, but her weight did not pick up consistently.

Zoo officials made the decision to euthanize the calf, which was surrounded by her keepers when she passed away.

The zoo said it consulted with elephant experts from around the world while caring for the calf, which was born prematurely at 615 days. The average gestation for a female African elephant calf is 645 days.

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“When we spoke with them, they assured us that it was a normal occurrence for calves who are teething to not have an appetite and to lose weight,” Baker said. “But they also warned us that sometimes the little calves can’t recover from the weight loss and they pass away as a result.”

At the time of the calf’s birth, she weighed 184 pounds, 52 pounds below average. Her mother rejected her and had no milk, so the orphaned calf was taken in by the zoo and fed elephant milk and an African elephant formula while in its care.

“When the calf did not gain weight, we began to suspect a genetic abnormality or some type of malabsorption syndrome that the calf was born with that did not allow her to absorb the nutrients as she should. The veterinary team will be doing a full necropsy, which will hopefully shed some light on the problem,” Baker said.

Results of the necropsy will not be available for several weeks, the zoo said.

UPDATE 11 a.m. (8/26/17): The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's baby elephant is regaining her appetite.

Zoo officials said Saturday that the calf is eating more through her feeding tube and with a bottle. She also took a short walk Saturday morning.

“We are also seeing her feisty personality start to return,” officials said.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m. (8/25/17)

The baby elephant at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is up and moving around.
Zoo officials said Friday afternoon she is being fed formula through her feeding tube every four hours.
She is also taking a bottle of Nan's milk.

UPDATE 12:10 p.m. (8/24/17)

Zoo officials say the procedure went well.

The baby elephant is up and moving around.

She is receiving feedings through her feeding tube and her GI track is operating normal.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium thanks everyone for their well-wishes.

UPDATE 9:30 p.m. (8/23/17)

The baby elephant is out of surgery.

The feeding tube is in and she is in recovery.

She'll be fed every couple of hours as doctors are working to get some more weight on her.

She's lost 15 pounds since she was born and she was already underweight.

PETA says the calf is in this situation because the zoo wanted to make sure visitors could see her as soon as possible, taking her away from her mother.

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said the next 24-48 hours are critical for the survival of its baby elephant, which was born prematurely June 6.

In a news release, the zoo said the baby elephant took a turn for the worse.

According to zoo officials, teething has led to discomfort. Some days she eats a bottle with no problem and other days she pushes it away. The diminished appetite and erratic eating pattern have caused her to stop gaining weight, the zoo said.

The baby elephant has been placed in hospital care. A feeding tube was inserted to provide her with her dietary needs every two hours, the zoo said.

Doctors have tried to give her some milk from one of the other female elephants at the zoo, but she still isn't eating enough.

The baby elephant does not yet have a name.

Experts said normally that a baby elephant not eating wouldn't be a big problem, but this calf was born prematurely and already underweight at 184 pounds.

The average is around 220 pounds.

So for her, every pound counts as she develops.

"She's having a feeding tube put into her esophagus so that we might be able to provide her with food even though her mouth is too painful for her to want to eat, so unfortunately she's continued to lose weight and we're very, very, very worried about her," said Barbara Baker, president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Visitors to the zoo will not be able to see the calf and there's no set time for when you will see her.