Peaches, the elephant, has died
Posted at 6:19 AM (PST) on Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Second Lincoln Park Zoo elephant, Peaches, dies

January 19, 2005
By Andrew Herrman
Chicago Sun-Times

North America's oldest captive elephant, brought to Lincoln Park Zoo amid protests that Chicago's climate was too cold, has died.

The 55-year-old female African elephant named Peaches was found Monday morning collapsed on the floor of her indoor pen, her eyes unfocused and her breathing "labored,'' officials said. Veterinarians euthanized the animal Monday evening.

Zoo officials rejected animal rights activists' charges that cold weather and lack of indoor exercise space contributed to the animal's death. In a statement, the zoo said it is "likely" the animal died "from complications due to old age."

Lincoln Park Zoo is considering either shipping out its last remaining elephant -- 36-year-old Wankie -- or hosting a new elephant, said spokeswoman Kelly McGrath.

PETA sought sanctuary

Peaches was sent to Chicago from the San Diego Wild Animal Park in spring 2003 with Wankie and Tatima, another African elephant. Tatima died last October at age 35 in what zoo officials suspect was tuberculosis.

When the animals were brought here, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals warned that the animals would "not last more than few years" at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Animal rights activists renewed their complaints after Tatima's death. Television actress Gillian Anderson of "The X-Files" wrote Mayor Daley and members of the City Council to try to force the zoo to relocate the two remaining animals to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn.

Ray Ryan, who helped care for the elephants at the larger San Diego facility for five years, complained Tuesday that putting the elephants in Lincoln Park "is like me putting you in a closet."

But zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath said cold weather and exercise factors had "no bearing" on the deaths. She noted that PETA "elephant specialist" and frequent critic Nicole Meyer is not a trained scientist.