Oldest elephant in North America dies at theme park

Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:36pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Taj, the oldest elephant in North America, has died at age 71 at a California theme park, after years of performing for crowds and painting on canvas.

Taj far surpassed the 45-year average life expectancy for Asian elephants, Nancy Chan, a spokeswoman for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom -- where the animal lived in the Northern California city of Vallejo -- said on Tuesday.

"So many people have been touched by her, millions of people have met her over the years," Chan told Reuters.

"Here at the park, everyone who's ever worked with her has said she is their favorite," she said.

The elephant died on Monday, after park staff discovered that her breathing was labored, Chan said. They managed to lay the animal down on the ground, and administer medication to ease its pain, she said.

Taj was patient and gentle with trainers and other elephants in the enclosure, and seemed to enjoy performing for the public, the park said.

The animal was known for putting forward a leg, letting out a rumble and waiting for a rub down.

The park said that in the late 1990s, Taj learned to paint with a brush on canvas.   Continued...