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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

Council wants answers on deaths of L.A. Zoo elephants

By Rebecca Ellis, Los Angeles Times
Published: May 24, 2024, 6:08am

LOS ANGELES — After outcry over the recent deaths of two L.A. Zoo elephants, the Los Angeles City Council wants to know why they were euthanized.

The council unanimously voted Wednesday to ask the zoo for a study that would examine the factors that led to the deaths of the two Asian elephants — Jewel and Shaunzi — and detail whether improvements need to be made in how the zoo cares for its remaining elephants.

The motion was introduced by Council members Bob Blumenfield and Eunisses Hernandez after the zoo’s decision to euthanize 53-year-old Shaunzi in January. Jewel was euthanized in January 2023 at the age of 61.

“It’s not a whodunit. It’s not like they’re doing an autopsy to find the killer. We know they were euthanized because they were having serious medical issues,” Blumenfield said. “Part of the report is to find out: What were those issues? Is this something that was directly related to captivity?”

Max Pulsinelli, a spokesperson for the L.A. Zoo, said in an email the zoo was “glad to provide this information to the council as requested.”

Zoo officials have said that elephants at the zoo receive the highest level of care and that the decision to euthanize each elephant was made only after they had exhausted every other option. The decision to euthanize Jewel was made because her “quality of life was continuing to decline,” while Shaunzi was euthanized after considering factors including “her age [and] past medical history [and] her inability to right herself with supportive efforts to raise her,” the zoo has said.

The deaths have sparked outrage among animal rights groups.

“An elephant is the largest land mammal on Earth,” said Courtney Scott, an elephant consultant for In Defense of Animals. “They can’t even begin to thrive or even be remotely healthy in a few acres.”