King Tusk, Asian Elephant Ambassador, Dies at 57 Years of Age
Ringling Bros. Mourns Passing of Beloved Animal Star
Vienna, VA - December 22, 2002 - King Tusk, a 57-year-old male Asian elephant living in retirement with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, was humanely euthanized yesterday (Saturday, December 21). A magnificent and beautiful Asian elephant with 6-foot-long tusks, King Tusk was a star performer with Ringling Bros. in the 1980s and early 1990s. He passed away quietly at Ringling Bros. elephant retirement facility in northern Florida in the company of his pachyderm companions and human caretakers.
Also known as Tommy, King Tusk weighed more than 11,000 pounds, measured 10 feet at the tallest point of his back and 16 feet from tail to tusk tip and was thought to be the Largest Land Mammal Traveling the Face of the Earth while he was performing. In his later years, he developed osteoarthritis, a disease common in aging mammals from alpacas to humans to zebras. King Tusk reached a point where everyday movement was painful, and he had become unresponsive to treatment. The world's best veterinarians and elephant experts were consulted in King Tusk's care, and a number of treatment regimes were used to alleviate his discomfort. The veterinarians used a variety of anti-inflammatory medications, nutriceuticals, homeopathic remedies and acupuncture and designed customized exercise routines and living areas for him. Once King Tusk's quality of life declined, the veterinary team made the difficult but humane decision to euthanize him. A team of top veterinary and elephant experts conducted the post mortem exam Saturday.
"King Tusk delighted children of all ages from Topeka to Tokyo," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling Bros. King Tusk traveled with Ringling Bros. from 1987 to 1995 and was so hugely popular with audiences that he was the headliner for a special tour of Japan in 1990. Feld said, "King Tusk was an important part of our performing family, and we will all miss him terribly."
"An outstanding veterinary team looked after King Tusk and did everything possible to ensure his comfort," said John Kirtland, Ringling Bros. Executive Director of Animal Stewardship. "Throughout his life, he was an ambassador for the Asian elephant species. Now, we will take what we learned from his treatment and share it with veterinarians and conservationists around the world." A necropsy will be performed on the body with final reports being available in approximately 30 days.
Born in India and brought to the United States in 1945, it is unlikely that King Tusk would have lived beyond young adulthood in his native country since poachers would have killed him long ago for his 6-foot-long tusks that weighed more than 100 pounds each. Experts estimate that there are fewer than 40,000 Asian elephants remaining in the world, and the two main threats to the survival of the species are habitat destruction and ivory poaching. King Tusk came out of retirement in 1998 to conduct a nation-wide tour to raise awareness of the plight of Asian elephants as a species.
Ringling Bros. is produced and owned by Feld Entertainment, Inc., the world's largest producer of live family entertainment and the caretaker of the largest and most diverse gene pool of Asian elephants outside of Southeast Asia. More than 60 elephants live with Ringling Bros., and about one third tour the United States with the shows. The others are in retirement or at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
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Editor's note: Photos and broadcast-quality video of King Tusk are available on request. Information about Ringling Bros., the animals and the Center for Elephant Conservation is available at www.Ringling.com/amazinganimals.
Contact: Ringling Bros. Media Center (703) 448-4120; In Florida: Larry Kellogg (727) 804-8932 - cell