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Second-Oldest Elephant Dies

Last updated on Thursday, January 26, 2012

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) - The Kansas City Zoo announced that Penney, the second-oldest elephant in any accredited United States zoo, died early Tuesday at 51.

Penney, who was born in the wild in 1961, has been credited with being part of the inspiration for the book and film, "Water for Elephants."

While tests to determine the cause of her death have not been conducted, zoo officials said she lived longer than most elephants and has battled arthritis in recent years.

"We had done as much testing as we could, blood samples and (it) just didn't really identify anything," said Kansas City Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff. "We thought maybe she was in a little more pain, so we upped her pain medication, but in the end she just wasn't going to make it."

The zoo said caregivers liked to treat Penney by giving her watermelons, pumpkins and balls of grain. During the holidays, she liked to eat crushed candy canes.

"She danced to the music of Penney," said Wisthoff. "She wasn't our most social or wasn't the animal that really wanted to work a lot with us, and for us, she just was Penney."

Penney first came to the zoo in 1971. She got her name because Kansas City children donated pennies to help bring her to Kansas City.

Wisthoff said she would be buried at the animal cemetery at the zoo. He said the zoo's six other female elephants are expected to mourn her in the way elephants do.

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