Elephant born prematurely at Pa. zoo dies

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The little calf failed to thrive despite around-the-clock care.

An elephant that was born prematurely three months ago at that Pittsburgh Zoo and had to be raised by her keepers because her mother could not properly care for her died on Wednesday.

“Our hearts are broken, it’s just devastating,” Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, said in a statement. “She touched so many people in such a short time. We did everything we possibly could to care for her, but unfortunately in the end, it just wasn’t enough.”

The zoo said the elephant stopped eating when it started teething and had to be fed through a tube.

“While initially the calf responded well to the feeding tube, her weight did not pick up consistently,” the zoo said in a statement. “The humane decision to euthanize the calf was made and she passed away peacefully surrounded by her family of dedicated keepers.”

The calf was born prematurely at 615 days, a month earlier than normal and weighed only 184 pounds, 52 pounds below average for an African elephant. At last weigh she weighed 166 pounds, far below the 200 plus pounds she should have weighed, Baker said.

A necropsy is planned and results will not be available for several weeks, the zoo said.

Baker, who called the calf Little Bit, said the baby’s caretakers suspect the elephant had a “genetic abnormality or some type of malabsorption syndrome that the calf was born with, that did not allow her to absorb the nutrients as she should.”

“We were very blessed to know her,” Baker said a news conference, choking back tears. “She was just beautiful spirit. . . This little girl captured a lot of hearts.”