Zoo officials say elephant had colic

Blood tests confirm theory that Maggie had stomach pain

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Results from a second round of blood tests are back on Maggie the elephant who twice this week lay down at the Alaska Zoo and could not get back up.

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The tests indicate what zoo officials first suspected - Maggie lay down because she had colic or stomach pain, said zoo director Pat Lampi.

The zoo's 8,000-pound elephant went down on her side for several hours Sunday and Wednesday and couldn't get up. Firefighters lifted her with a hoist and winch because her massive weight could have damaged internal organs and muscles if she'd been down for too long.

The elephant then was placed in a sling to allow her to rest safely. Putting large animals in slings to help them recoup is standard veterinary practice.

Tests by veterinarians done Wednesday showed blood counts and blood chemistry within normal ranges, said zoo spokeswoman Eileen Floyd. A first round of blood tests also were normal.

Keepers think colic or stomach pain caused Maggie to go down Sunday for as many as 19 hours. They think her muscles were so sore she went down again Wednesday. That lasted another six or seven hours, Floyd said.

The blood work did show one elevated value, but it was no surprise, Floyd said. Maggie's handlers expected her levels of creatine kinase, a muscle enzyme released when muscles are exerted, to be high because of muscle bruising caused during the episodes.

She seemed to doing well Friday, alert and responding well to zookeepers, Floyd said. She could be released from the sling Saturday, Floyd said.

"She seems herself," she said.

Meanwhile, a group is planning to hold a protest Sunday to encourage zoo officials to relocate the facility's only elephant to a warmer climate where she can be housed with other elephants and get more exercise.

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