Jun 15, 2014 6:21 PM by Zach Thaxton
An elderly elephant destined for its new home at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs died while en route from the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina Sunday, according to zoo officials.
Joni, a 44-year-old African elephant, was being transferred to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to receive better geriatric care and enhanced socialization in the zoo's new elephant exhibit. "We knew there was a risk involved in transporting Joni because of her age," said Bob Chastain, President and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, via a media release. "In case of emergency, a car with Greenville Zoo's veterinarian and head elephant keeper followed Joni all the way from South Carolina," Chastain's statement continued. "They monitered her at every stop and nine zoos along the way were on standby to help them if the need arose. Despite all the precautions taken, Joni passed so quickly that nothing could be done for her."
According to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo spokesperson Erica Meyer, Joni was alert, drinking water, and under no apparent distress during a stop in Amarillo, Texas, but by the next stop in La Junta, Joni was already dead.
"Despite this loss, we still know in our hearts that moving Joni to Colorado was the right decision," Chastain said via a media release. "If she had lived for another year or longer, it would have been unfair to her to have spent that time alone."
A necropsy will be performed by veterinarians from both zoos to determine Joni's cause of death.