Asheboro, NC — After several days of declining health and despite round-the-clock care by veterinary and keeper staffs, a 36-year-old female African elephant died Tuesday evening at the North Carolina Zoo.

“Little Diamond” was well-known in the U.S. zoo community as the first African elephant born in North America. Born at the Knoxville (Tenn.) Zoo in 1978, she was transferred to the N.C. Zoo in May 1995 and became part of the zoo’s seven-member herd.

According to General Curator Ken Reininger, Diamond had begun showing signs of colic last Friday when she stopped eating and became lethargic. Her condition worsened over the next five days despite treatments for suspected intestinal ailments, according to Chief Veterinarian Mike Loomis.

A necropsy, or animal autopsy conducted into the early morning hours Wednesday revealed that Diamond had succumbed to an impacted large intestine from ingesting sand, Loomis said. Sand is a common substrate used in zoo elephant holding facilities and exhibits.

The zoo’s six remaining elephants, including four females and two males ranging in age from 12 to 40, remain in good condition and on exhibit.

“Little Diamond” had been part of our elephant family for 20 years,” said Zoo Director David Jones. “This is a very sad loss.”

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.