Asian elephant in declining health euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo

Asian elephant in declining health euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo
Hanako, a beloved elderly Asian elephant who came to Tacoma two decades ago, was humanely euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Saturday evening after a severe decline in her health over the past several weeks. (Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium)

TACOMA, Wash. — An Asian elephant who came to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium two decades ago was humanely euthanized Saturday evening.

Hanako, 56, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and tuberculosis in 2019, and her health started to severely decline over the past several weeks, according to a zoo news release.

“We have lost a treasured member of our zoo family and beloved icon of our community,” said Dr. Karen Goodrowe, general curator of the zoo. “Our hearts are heavy. Hanako was a magnificent ambassador for her species, and we will greatly miss her.”

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Zoo officials said Hanako also had advanced joint disease, had stopped eating her regular diet and showed signs of significant discomfort even with the help of pain medication.

The zoo veterinary and animal care teams said it was a “difficult decision.”

According to the release, Hanako had lived far past the median life expectancy for females of her species in human care.

Hanako’s care team inspected her daily; however, they noticed changes and abnormalities in Hanako’s left front foot, which had cancerous tissue that could not be safely removed, Dr. Karen Wolf, the zoo’s head veterinarian, said. A team of caretakers and consultants “aggressively” treated the cancer with several forms of topical chemotherapy, cryotherapy and light-based therapy.

At one point, it became difficult for Hanako to chew her food and hay had to be mulched for her, according to the release.

“Through intensive treatments, we were able to slow the progression of Hanako’s cancer and make her comfortable for a long period of time,” Wolf said.