PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tusko, one of the Oregon Zoo’s beloved Asian elephants, was euthanized Tuesday.
The 45-year-old elephant had a decades-old leg injury that zookeepers say was only getting worse with time.
They reportedly decided to euthanize him when they could no longer help him deal with the pain.
“This is a very sad day, especially for all the keepers and animal-care staff who have been close to Tusko through the years,” zoo curator Bob Lee said in a press release.
“The ten years Tusko spent at the Oregon Zoo was the longest period he’d ever stayed in one place. We’re thankful we were able to give him a good home with our elephant family.”
Tusko is the second elephant to have died at the Oregon Zoo this year.
His death comes just a week after the zoo’s $57 million Elephant Lands habitat was unveiled. It’s described as the most ambitious project in Oregon Zoo history.
But the zoo’s controversial history with its elephant program, including cases of tuberculosis and inbreeding, have some questioning whether the facility is equipped to properly handle the large animals.
“Elephants are the largest land mammals on Earth, they require miles to roam, not a few scant acres,” Courtney Scott with Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants said. “[Tusko’s] death was not the saddest part of his life. His life in confinement was the saddest part of his life.”
At 45, Tusko was one of the oldest and largest males of his species, weighing around 13,000 pounds.
He was born in Thailand around 1971 and was later brought to Miami. His original name was Sobik, and he was the first elephant at the Central Florida Zoo.
When Tusko outgrew the small zoo he became a circus performer with animal trainer Rex Williams who gave him his new name for his impressive tusks. He was featured in shows with Circus Vargas during the 1980s.
Tusko came to the Oregon Zoo 10 years ago. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in summer 2014, but was cleared to rejoin his herd a year later.
A leg injury forced him to put pressure on his other legs, and severe swelling and decreased flexibility made it extremely difficult for him to stand up. The zoo said he used his trunk to help support his weight shortly before his death.
“It was obvious he was in a great deal of pain,” zoo veterinarian Tim Storms said. “It was distressing to watch him trying to walk, and we felt we had run out of treatment options.”
Tusko fathered 2 offspring, Samudra and Lily, during his time at the Oregon Zoo.