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Reba, Phoenix Zoo and former Ringling Brothers elephant, dies at age 51

(Phoenix Zoo Photo)

PHOENIX — Reba, a 51-year-old Asian elephant at the Phoenix Zoo, died this week, the zoo announced Thursday.

The zoo said the “difficult decision” was made to euthanize Reba because of a variety of health issues.

“Reba is incredibly intelligent and probably most well-known as the elephant who enjoys a firehose shower during our Winter in July celebration,” Heather Wright, the zoo’s elephant manager, said in a press release.

“She has a larger than life personality and is by far the most vocal elephant in the barn. Her squeaks, rumbles, and trumpets will be missed by everyone who knows her. There really are no words to convey how much her loss will mean to those who know and love her.”

Reba had undergone treatment for arthritis and inflammation for years. She displayed “severely decreased” activity and mobility levels and seemed to be in more discomfort. She was not using the habitat or engaging with keepers as often as usual.

The zoo installed cameras to monitor her during nights, during which she continued to appear uncomfortable.

The press release stated:

Given her decline, physically, and poor long-term prognosis, they feel they have exhausted all treatment options. The decision to euthanize is never taken lightly and team members have had no shortage of conversations, meetings, efforts and tears in assessing her quality of life and making this difficult decision.

Reba arrived at the Phoenix Zoo in 1999 from the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida after performing as a circus elephant.

The zoo houses two other female elephants, 48-year-old Sheena and 54-year-old Indu.

Elephants are often in herds with relatives, but because the three came from different backgrounds they preferred to be kept separate.

Asian elephants have an average life expectancy of 47 years, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

They are native to 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia, according to the Phoenix Zoo.

They are considered endangered species due to poaches, habitat loss and conflict between humans and elephants. There are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants alive.

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