The Tulsa Zoo on Monday released results of a necropsy, or animal autopsy, performed on Tova, the 43-year-old Asian elephant humanely euthanized on Sunday, Nov. 15. During the procedure, a nearly 10-pound bladder stone was found to be completely obstructing the flow of urine from the elephant’s bladder.
Bladder stones are hard masses of minerals found in the bladder that can affect humans or any animal. In Tova’s case, the stone was irritating the bladder wall, which would explain her abdominal discomfort. When the stone completely blocked the bladder from emptying, these symptoms worsened and caused her to stop eating and drinking, as well as stopped her ability to urinate.
In the case of people and some animals, bladder stones can be removed or broken up in a few ways. In elephants however, the identification of such stones is very difficult due to the animal’s size and anatomy. In addition, methods of removal are also unfortunately typically not possible for the same reasons, as was the case with Tova.
“No animal health or care professional takes lightly the decision to humanely euthanize any animal. While saddened by Tova’s loss, all parties are comforted knowing we made the right decision for Tova,” says Joe Barkowski, Vice President of Animal Conservation and Science at the Tulsa Zoo. “The results indicate the condition was long-term, had advanced to a stage that had begun to cause her great pain and discomfort, and could not be resolved, so humane euthanasia was the only viable option to end her suffering.”
Staff observed initial signs of discomfort in Tova on Nov. 9. Zoo animal care and health teams worked around the clock to understand and identify the source of her symptoms. Colleagues from the Center for Elephant Conservation also came to consult with zoo experts to ensure all avenues for treatment were explored.
Tova’s health rapidly declined early Sunday, Nov. 15. Zoo veterinarians and other experts determined it was best to end her suffering through humane euthanasia.
The zoo conducted a necropsy to assess Tova’s health, body condition and any visible abnormalities or concerns at time of death. This procedure was undertaken by the highly skilled veterinary and animal care staff of the Tulsa Zoo, assisted by colleagues from other facilities, including the Center for Elephant Conservation.
Tova, and fellow Asian elephant, Asha, arrived at the Tulsa Zoo on Sept. 28 through a partnership with Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ®. Tova and Asha came from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation ® in Florida. Home to the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America, the CEC is dedicated to the conservation of these endangered pachyderms. Asha traveled with Tova as a companion, and will remain at the zoo for several months before returning to the CEC.
In addition to Asha, the Tulsa Zoo is home to Asian elephants, Gunda, Sooky and Sneezy.