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Columbus Zoo Mourns Elephant Patriarch

Media Alert: Wednesday, February 16, 2011


February 16, 2011

Patty Peters                                                         
Vice President Community Relations

Powell, OH – Columbus Zoo and Aquarium staff members are mourning the sudden and unexpected loss of Coco, the patriarch of the Zoo’s elephant herd.  When animal care staff arrived at the Zoo at 7:00 a.m. today they found Coco lying down and unable or unwilling to get up. They worked non-stop for almost eight hours in an attempt to save him but he died just before 3:00 p.m.
Prior to this morning elephant care staff members, who combined have more than 60 years of experience, had not noticed any signs of illness. Coco had eaten and defecated during the night – both normal health indicators. The cause of his rapid decline may not be known for several weeks when the results of a necropsy (animal autopsy) are available. 
Coco was an unusually long-legged and tall elephant and stood approximately ten feet six inches at the shoulder. He is the father of Beco (BEE-co) who was born in March 2009 and Bohdi (BO-dee) born in April 2004. Zoo staff members have many fond memories of Coco’s time at the Columbus Zoo since his arrival in 1974.
“When I came to the Columbus Zoo in 1978 I was awestruck by the sight of Coco” said Director Emeritus Jack Hanna. “He invoked a sense of wonder in everyone who saw him; leading them to want to know more about elephants and to care about their plight in the wild. Coco will be missed – by me, by our community and by the many dedicated animal professionals at the Columbus Zoo who have devoted their lives to him for the past 37 years.”
Coco was wild born and believed to be 40 years of age. A study published in the research journal Zoo Biology in 2004 shows the average life expectancy for Asian elephants in North American zoos is 45 years; about the same as counterparts in the wild.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium supports a variety of elephant conservation and scientific studies including population surveys and satellite-tracking of wild populations, reducing human-elephant conflicts in range countries and medical research.
 “Coco was a very special member of the Columbus Zoo family” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “We will continue our important work to honor the life of this one magnificent elephant as well as all elephants around the world.”
There are now four elephants at the Columbus Zoo; two adult females, Phoebe and Connie, and young males, Beco and Bodhi. After Coco’s human caretakers said goodbye to their old friend they opened the doors to the rest of his herd so they could be with Coco one last time.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year.  General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free.  The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.)  For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit