The elephant known as "Joy," who delighted Greenville Zoo visitors for four decades, has died.
Zoo officials say Joy, who was known as Joni to her keepers, passed away suddenly while en route to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.
The 44-year-old elderly African elephant was heading to a new home at CMZ because both zoos believed she would receive better veterinary care and be surrounded by other elephants living in CMZ's Encounter Africa exhibit.
"Our entire zoo family is heartbroken over this profound loss," said Jeff Bullock, Greenville Zoo Director. "Joni will be mourned not only by our community, but also the Colorado Springs community who were excited to welcome her to their family."
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Greenville Zoo worked together to ensure the best possible outcome for Joni during her move. Officials at both zoos said they planned the move with extreme care and had a support network in place along the way, but said Joni's death was too sudden to prevent.
"In case of emergency, a car with Greenville Zoo's veterinarian and head elephant keeper followed Joni all the way from South Carolina," said Bob Chastain, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo President and CEO. "They monitored her at every stop, and nine zoos along the way were on standby to help them if the need arose. Despite all the precautions taken, Joni passed so quickly that nothing could be done for her."
The Greenville Zoo made arrangements to move Joni to CMZ to meet new zoological guidelines for elephants. Zoo officials said the move was vital for Joni's health and happiness, too.
"We still know in our hearts that moving Joni to Colorado was the best decision for her long-term care," said Bullock. "Joni needed companionship, and it would have been unfair to her to continue to live the remainder of her life alone."
CMZ veterinarians are working to determine how Joni died.
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