Cinda, a Sedgwick County Zoo elephant, died of chronic age-related heart disease, tests have confirmed.
Pathology reports from two different labs showed evidence of lesions in Cinda’s heart due to heart disease brought on by her age, the zoo’s associate veterinarian Sandy Wilson said Wednesday. Cinda was 43 when she died Nov. 5.
Her death surprised zookeepers, because she “seemed to be particularly happy in her last days,” Wilson said. Cinda had experienced some “vague nonspecific symptoms” such as edema in her abdomen, but she was eating and behaving normally. Wilson said veterinarians have never diagnosed a case of heart disease in a live elephant.
Cinda was from South Africa and arrived with Stephanie, another elephant at the zoo, in Wichita in 1972, a year after the zoo opened. The two lived together for more than four decades.
A necropsy – an autopsy performed on an animal – took two days and required five veterinarians. The zoo collected and sent tissues to universities for various projects about elephant health. The Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City got Cinda’s skeleton. Cinda weighed about 8,400 pounds at the time of her death.
Cinda and Stephanie were some of the first animals to come to the zoo. Both were brought as orphans from Kruger National Park in South Africa.
At the time of her death, zoo director Mark Reed called Cinda one of the zoo’s iconic animals.
Stephanie has been doing well as the zoo’s lone elephant, senior zookeeper Mike Forbes told The Eagle during a tour recently.
“It appears she is doing very well,” Wilson said. “She doesn’t show any signs of illness, although she also is geriatric.”
The zoo continues to raise money for its most expensive exhibit so far, the Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley. It has raised $10,350,000 – including $5.3 million from the county – and has $250,000 more to raise.
The zoo plans to debut the exhibit to the public over Memorial Day 2016.
Elephants are social animals, and the exhibit is in response to a requirement by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that zoos it accredits have space for at least three elephants.
More elephants will join Stephanie. The zoo hopes to get a breeding herd.