TOKYO -- Indira, a female elephant presented to Japan by the late Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and named after his daughter, now India's prime minister, died at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo today, zoo officials said.
Zoo officials said Indira died a natural death at an estimated age of 49.
Indira was brought to the zoo in September 1949 as an emissary of peace and had since been a symbol of friendship between Japan and India.
Nehru presented Indira, named after his daughter, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to the zoo after he was moved by some 800 letters sent by Japanese children who were eager to see an elephant. There was no elephant in the zoo at that time.
Tokyo Governor Shunichi Suzuki mourned Indira's death and paid tribute to the animal, saying 'she gave a big dream to Japanese children and played a good role in Japan-India friendship for more than 30 years.'
Tadamichi Koga, former head of the zoo, said Indira the elephant was 'one of my happiest memories. I still remember that I was deeply moved when I saw a letter from Premier Nehru on his decision to present her as a gift to Japanese children.'