Tuesday, September 29, 2009

....Buffalo Zoo elephant 'Buki' dies at 52....

Zoo News

Buffalo Zoo Says Goodbye to Beloved Elephant, Buki

Buki,” one of the Buffalo Zoo’s beloved Asian elephants, has died at the age of 52. A long-time resident, she was a favorite among visitors and a special friend to Zoo staff. Keepers were present when she passed away at 5:40 a.m. on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Although Buki had begun to show her age over the last few years, she recently experienced a reduction in appetite, leading to significant weight loss. Upon the advice of elephant nutritionists, keepers made several modifications to her diet to make it more suitable to an aging animal.

Results of all medical tests showed a change in her kidney function. The Zoo’s veterinary staff, in consultation with elephant experts in the United States and Canada, administered medication to improve her digestion, alleviate discomfort and reduce the likelihood of secondary infections. Supplemental oral fluids and regular IV fluids were also provided to support hydration and electrolyte balance.

Throughout her illness, Buki maintained social interactions with the Zoo’s other elephants, Jothi and Surapa. She also remained good-natured with her dedicated keepers and veterinary staff and accepted her treatments very well.

Hundreds of get well wishes poured in from the community, for which Zoo staff is very grateful. Keepers read the cards to Buki each morning. The cards are on display in the windows of the Elephant House, as well as the window across from the facility (by Sea Lion Cove).

A necropsy will be conducted; however, results will not be available for several weeks. A study conducted by Wiese and Willis published in the August 2004 issue of the journal Zoo Biology found that the average life expectancy for female Asian elephants in professionally managed zoological facilities is 44.8 years. The life expectancy values are similar to the life expectancy of wild elephants.

Born in the wild in her native Thailand, the earliest known records show she was brought to the United States in 1959, where she became a member of the King Bros. Circus. In 1961, Buki, known as “Sheba” during her days in the circus, began performing with several other elephants in the Cristiani-Wallace Circus, run by Pete Cristiani. She remained there until 1963 when Remo Cristiani added her as a member of his circus. Buki retired from the circus world in 1984.

To ensure that she received proper treatment and care for the remainder of her life, Buki was then brought to the Buffalo Zoo. There, she was introduced to her new elephant friend, “Lulu” (who passed away in 1992). Younger elephants, Jothi and Surapa, arrived from the Arignar Zoo in Madras, India and joined the pair in 1987.

At the Buffalo Zoo, Buki spent her time eating hay, along with vegetables and fruits, particularly watermelon—one of her favorite treats. The matriarch of the elephant trio, Buki, a gentle giant, was a wonderful ambassador for her species. She was the former star of the ever-popular, “Bathtime With Buki” demonstration, which took place in the Buffalo Zoo’s W.I.L.D. Place during the summer season. During this demonstration, visitors were given the opportunity to help scrub Buki, who especially loved getting rubbed behind the ears. Keepers also used this time to talk to visitors about elephants and how they can help secure this endangered species’ future.

Buki is survived by fellow elephant herd members, Jothi and Surapa, the Buffalo Zoo staff and the Western New York Community.


ken.d said...

Her original name was Sheba. She was owned by Remo Cristiani and sold to the Buffalo Zoo in 1984. I took care of her when she was 7,8 and 9. I only found out she was at the Buffalo Zoo several months ago and 3 weeks ago made the trip from my Miami home to see her. It was a nice reunion. At a future date I will give you a link to the reunion video.