Local fire crews help save elephant at Topeka Zoo

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UPDATE: Topeka Zoo reports Shannon the elephant has died

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Topeka Fire Department was called to a scene they don’t respond to every day.

Shannon, a 35-year-old African elephant was found lying down when staff arrived at the Topeka Zoo Sunday morning. According to zoo officials, she was lying on her side in an indoor space with other elephants standing guard.

When staff tried to encourage Shannon to stand up, but failed, they called in the Topeka Fire Department Technical Rescue Team and the Animal Search and Rescue Team to help.

“The first phone call we made was to the fire department,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “They were willing to help.”

The teams began the process of getting straps under Shannon’s side and attached her to a rigging system. When all was ready, the rigging was attached to a specialized hoist to help lift her up.

With the majority of Shannon’s body weight off the ground, she was given an enema for rapid hydration. After several failed attempts, she was finally able to stand and support her own weight.

Around 11:30 a.m., she was released from the straps that helped her stand.

According to the zoo, elephants don’t normally lay down for extended periods of time due to their body mass. They said if the elephant stays laying down for too long, body processes can begin that may cause the elephant to die.

“What I witnessed this morning was incredible,” Wiley said. “When I first saw Shannon lying there, I didn’t think she was going to make it. Even with all the preparation we had put into this, I was still amazed by the commitment and determination of our firefighters and colleagues from Animal Search and Rescue. They saved an elephant today.”

Shannon is currently being kept under close observation.

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