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Elephant 'Matriarch' at Springfield Zoo Not Expected to Recover from Kidney Disease

The 50-year-old elephant "Pinky," whose official name is Connie, has experienced significant weight loss; tests indicate progressive kidney disease
Connie, or "Pinky," as she's known locally, is a 50-year-old elephant cow at Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo. (Photo credit: Dickerson Park Zoo)

The oldest elephant at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield is very sick. The elephant known in the local community as “Pinky” is believed to be 50 years old; the median life expectancy for an elephant cow is about 47 years.

According to a release from the zoo, Pinky has seen significant weight loss, and her blood nitrogen levels are increasing more rapidly than they should be. A staff veterinarian believes she has progressive kidney disease.  Zoo medical staff are performing warm water enemas twice a day to help her kidneys function, while giving her antibiotics to fight off any other infections.

They’re also hoping to perform an ultrasound to see the extent of the kidney disease; however, the zoo does not expect the elephant to recover.

Melinda Arnold is a spokeswoman for Dickerson Park Zoo. She said the two elephants living with Pinky will almost certainly feel the loss, should the older elephant pass away.

“In the event of her death, the elephants will be allowed to see her, to touch her. And the zookeepers will  But even though these are unrelated females, they have created their own herd. And Connie, or ‘Pinky,’ is the matriarch,” Arnold told KSMU.

Also, zookeepers are trying to improve the elephant cow's appetite by finding more palatable hay and limiting starches and sugars, which can aggravate her gastro-intestinal tract.

Pinky, whose official name is “Connie,” came to Dickerson Park Zoo in November 1981 from the Abilene, Texas, Zoological Gardens. She was born in the wild, and gave birth to three calves. Two died, and the third is in the Oklahoma City Zoo.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Davidson.