Sunda the 58-year-old Asian elephant at Topeka Zoo reported seriously ill

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - Sunda the Asian elephant at the Topeka Zoo has been dealing with an illness, according to zoo officials Tuesday.

The zoo said the illness took a serious turn Sunday morning.

"Last Monday, Sunda started blowing a discharge from her trunk," said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. "Sunday morning, the illness took a turn for the worse. She became very lethargic; almost unresponsive. She was very pale. By early afternoon on Sunday, she began to stabilize."

Initially, the illness presented an upper respiratory infection. When the symptoms began, Sunda was started on broad spectrum antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications.

So far, cytology performed on mucus from the elephant's trunk last week has not shown any abnormal pathogens but the sample will continue to be cultured over the next two to three weeks. Radiographs of the trunk were also taken to rule out sinus blockages and potential tooth problems.

She has also  received additional hydrating fluids regularly.

Staff Veterinarian Dr. Shirley Llizo said although she is more stable now, until they can pinpoint exactly what is going on, her prognosis is guarded.

"While it could just be a nasty upper respiratory infection, we can't rule out pneumonia, lung cancer or other systemic diseases."

Sunda is 58 years-old and came to the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center in 1966. At 58 years old, she is a geriatric elephant.

It is estimated that there are only twelve other female Asian elephants in North America
that are older than Sunda.

Like people, some illnesses are harder to fight off particularly for elderly individuals or animals. "Sunda is one of those animals that just steals your heart," said Wiley. "You hope they live forever but time has a way of catching up to all of us. We all hope Sunda will pull through this."

Last December, the zoo lost 35-year-old Shannon, an African elephant, after she passed away following an unexpected illness.

KSNT News will continue to update this story as updates become available.





Trending Stories

Don't Miss Video