After 2 elephants die at LA Zoo, City Council is looking into the matter

The Los Angeles City Council ordered a study Wednesday into the death of two Asian elephants at the city’s zoo, including a possible update to standards of care for the remaining elephants at the facility.

In a 14-0 vote, the council approved a motion introduced by Bob Blumenfield and Eunisses Hernandez in February. The LA Department of Zoo is expected to report back in 30 days on the cause of death for the elephants, Jewel and Shaunzi, as well as detail current standards of care for elephant management and any improvements needed.

According to city documents, on Jan. 20, 2023, the LA Zoo announced that 61-year-old Jewel — the oldest Asian elephant in the zoo’s care — had to be euthanized due to declining health. A year later, the zoo announced that 53-year-old Shaunzi had to be euthanized as well due to her declining health.

In this July 6, 2017, file photo, Asian elephant Shaunzi, then the Zoo’s newest elephant, kicks up dust while making her first appearance at the Los Angeles Zoo. Shaunzi was euthanized Jan. 3, 2024, at the LA Zoo after a sudden illness. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Asian elephant, Shaunzi, then the Zoo’s newest elephant, kicks up dust while making her first appearance at the Los Angeles Zoo on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Shaunzi was euthanized Jan. 3, 2024, at the LA Zoo after a sudden illness. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Asian elephant, Shaunzi, then the Zoo’s newest elephant, makes her first appearance at the Los Angeles Zoo on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Shaunzi was euthanized Jan. 3, 2024, at the LA Zoo after a sudden illness. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Asian elephant, Shaunzi, keeps an eye out for visitors to her enclosure during her first appearance at the Los Angeles Zoo on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Shaunzi was euthanized Jan. 3, 2024, at the LA Zoo after a sudden illness. AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The Los Angeles Zoo on Friday announced the death of 61-year-old Jewel, the oldest Asian elephant in the Zoo’s care, due to declining health. Photo LA Zoo

Billy an Asian bull elephant who has lived at the LA Zoo for more than 30 years on Wednesday, November 30, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Billy an Asian bull elephant who has lived at the LA Zoo for more than 30 years on Wednesday, November 30, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Jewel spent 30 years in the custody of a private owner until 2009, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture rescued her. After recovery and rehabilitation, Jewel and Tina — her companion of 30 years — arrived at the zoo in 2010. Shaunzi was born in 1970 in Thailand and spent much of her youth in a circus environment. She arrived at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in 1983 and transferred to the LA Zoo in 2017.

The LA Zoo remains home to two remaining Asian elephants, Tina and Billy. In part, the report is intended to ensure the health and safety of Tina and Billy, and improve their care at the facility.

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Since 1986, these animals have been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. According to the 2019 IUCN Red List assessment, there are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants in the wild. The population of these animals continues to face challenges due to poaching, the loss of habitat and human-elephant conflict.

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