Published Thursday, 29 August 2013
Belfast Zoo's oldest elephant Jenny, who has passed away. (© Belfast Zoo)
The zoo provides a sanctuary for elderly non-breeding female elephants and, since her arrival in 2009, Jenny has proved hugely popular with staff and visitors alike.
Aged 53, Jenny was not only Belfast's oldest elephant, but also one of the oldest in captivity anywhere in Europe.
"Jenny once lived in an Italian circus and during her time there she accidentally stood on a tent pole, causing damage to one of her feet," Michael Griffith, Belfast Zoo's vet, said.
"Since her arrival at Belfast Zoo, we have been treating her foot and have become very fond of her."
It is thought that Jenny had an aggressive form of cancer which led to a heart attack.
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 have worked with her every day for the last four years.
Belfast Zoo's curator Alyn Cairns said it had been a very sad time for the whole team - and also the other elephants.
"The bonds between an elephant herd are extremely strong," he explained.
"We therefore made the decision to close the elephant and giraffe walk on Friday, to give (the other elephants) Yhetto, Dhunja and Tina a chance to grieve."
Mr Cairns added: "A number of years ago, we made the decision to become a 'sanctuary' and retirement home for a herd of elderly non-breeding females.
"We were aware of the responsibilities that came with caring for these older elephants and, although we are all deeply saddened by her death, we are delighted that we were able to see her enjoy her last few years at the zoo."
© UTV News