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Rare African elephant euthanized

NORFOLK, Va., April 27 (UPI) -- Officlas at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk said an elderly female elephant that had been suffering from several debilitating ailments has been euthanized.

Officials who've been watching the deteriorating neurologic function, trunk coordination and muscle mass of Monica, the 38-year-old African elephant, decided to euthanize her 7 p.m. Tuesday, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday.

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"It was a heart-wrenching decision, but her quality of life changed significantly this week, and we didn't want her to suffer," Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Virginia Zoo, said in a release. "Monica lost interest in socializing with staff and other elephants, and experienced further deterioration of both her mental and physical condition."

A panel of "nationally recognized elephant veterinary experts" will inspect the animal's remains to establish the cause of the illness. The information they glean will be shared with the public and zoos across the country.

Monica, who arrived at the Virginia Zoo in July 1976, was one of three elephants living at the facility, and was born with only one tusk.

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