Jenny the elephant dies aged 53 - tributes for old dame of Belfast zoo
SHE was the grand old dame of Belfast Zoo, a popular attraction for thousands of visitors.
Now the zoo has been inundated with messages of tribute on social media following the death of Jenny, one of the oldest elephants in captivity in Europe.
The 53-year-old died last Friday after suffering a heart attack. Post mortem results revealed that she had an aggressive form of cancer that affected her organs and blood vessels, causing the heart attack.
The zoo has closed the elephant and giraffe walks to give the three remaining elephants in the herd a chance to grieve.
Jenny was born in 1960, making her Belfast Zoo's oldest elephant.
Zoo vet Michael Griffith, who spent a lot of time with Jenny, said: "Jenny once lived in an Italian circus and during her time there she stood on a tent pole, causing damage to one of her feet.
"Since her arrival at Belfast we were treating her foot and became very fond of her." After leaving the circus, Jenny lived in Hannover Zoo, but was moved after a number of females in the herd became pregnant. A few years ago Belfast Zoo became a retirement home for a herd of elderly, non-breeding females, so it was the ideal solution.
Zoo manager Mark Challis said: "We all think she enjoyed it. She mixed well with Tina and the other two elephants. For the last four or five years of her life she was very relaxed and wasn't put under any pressure.
"We were unaware of any ill-health – like many of our animals, she was so good at hiding it.
"Then, on Thursday last week, the cameras showed she had had a collapse in the paddock and she had a second heart attack early on Friday morning which killed her.
"Thankfully it was relatively quick and relatively painless. She was one of the zoo's most popular animals and we've had lots of Facebook messages about her."
Zoo curator Alyn Cairns added: "Jenny's death is a huge loss to the zoo's Asian elephant herd but she will also be greatly missed by the keepers who worked with her every day for the last four years.
"We are delighted that we were able to see her enjoy her last few years at the zoo."
Meanwhile, Jenny's remains have been taken to the veterinary laboratories at Stormont for cremation.