Oregon Zoo’s famous elephant Packy dies at 54

Packy was euthanized after TB treatment failed

Packy is the oldest male Asian elephant in the U.S. He turned 51 in April 2013. Undated photo. (Oregon Zoo)
Packy is the oldest male Asian elephant in the U.S. He turned 51 in April 2013. Undated photo. (Oregon Zoo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Zoo’s beloved Asian elephant, Packy, has died.

Packy, who was nearly 55, was euthanized at the Oregon Zoo Thursday, zoo officials announced.

In a statement, Bob Lee with the Oregon Zoo said, “We loved Packy so much. He was my favorite — the most impressive animal I’ve ever known. It’s hard to think about coming in to work tomorrow and not seeing him. There will never be another like him.”

Packy, the oldest and most famous of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo, April 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Packy, the oldest and most famous of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo, April 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

A memorial for Packy will be held soon, though full details have not yet been announced.

Packy was born at the Oregon Zoo in 1962, the first Asian elephant to be born in captivity. Packy was the oldest male of his species in North American and one of the oldest in the world.

In 2013, Packy was diagnosed with Tuberculosis after routine tests found the disease in another elephant, Rama. Tusko was also eventually diagnosed and treated for TB. The other elephants responded successfully, although Tusko was euthanized for an unrelated health problem in 2015.

The geriatric elephant was not responding well to treatment on 2 types of antibiotics, and zoo veterinarians decided to suspend treatment and explore other options.

They decided to euthanize Packy after finding no alternative options for treatment.

Dr. Tim Storms, the zoo’s lead veterinarian, said in a statement, “The remaining treatments involved side effects that would have been very hard on Packy with no guarantee of success, plus a risk of creating further resistance. None of us felt it would be right to do that. But without treatment, his TB would have continued to get worse. We consulted other experts — veterinarians and pharmacists — and a lot of people were involved in this decision, but that didn’t make it any easier. Anybody who’s had a sick or elderly pet knows how painful this can be, even if you know it’s the best thing for the animal.”

Packy was more than 10 feet tall and was easily recognized as the largest of the Oregon Zoo’s heard. He sired 7 calves, including the Zoo’s own Sun-Surin in 1982.

“I think with Packy being as old as he is, we have to look at every day as a blessing,” elephant curator Bob Lee said after vets suspended his TB treatment.

Packy in the pool at Elephant Lands, Fall 2016 © Oregon Zoo / photo by Sara Hottman.
Packy in the pool at Elephant Lands, Fall 2016 © Oregon Zoo / photo by Sara Hottman.