November 12, 2008
RIP, Mac the elephant

Very sad.

Mac, a mischievous, young Asian elephant who had become one of the Houston Zoo's most popular animals, became ill and died Sunday. He was 2.

He entertained visitors with his ability to dance, produce music on wind pipes and stand on his head.

Many zoo staff members, won over by his intelligence, playfulness and occasional headstrong ways, were devastated by the death of the 2,200-pounds-and-still growing animal.

"Everyone shares in the grief. Mac was embraced by the community in the past two years. It was sudden. It was quick, and we just couldn't save him," said zoo director Rick Barongi, who choked up with tears and stepped away from the microphone during a press conference Monday.

Ah, man, that sucks. So, um, any advice on how to discuss this with a 4-year-old when she asks where Mac is the next time we're at the zoo? Thanks.

After composing himself, Barongi returned to the microphone and said a cure or vaccine will be found only if veterinarians devote themselves to finding one.

Among the zoo's remaining elephants is 3-year-old Tucker, who was Mac's playmate. But the herd may be growing.

"Shanti's in the early stage of pregnancy," Barongi said.

Let's hope for the best on all counts.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 12, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

FWIW, little kids don't have that much of a concept of death. Go ahead and use the word, though, as opposed to 'gone' or 'went to sleep'.

"Honey, Mac got sick with a very serious elephant sickness and he died. We can't see him any more. But we can still see Tucker and the bigger elephants."

(And chances are she'll either ask again on your next four visits OR have to tell everyone she knows all about it.)

Posted by: katy on November 12, 2008 9:37 PM

Katy has the right idea. You could also say he got very very sick and although his doctors did the best they could he passed away. It wasn't because he did anything bad or anything like that. Sometimes people and animals get sick and even the best help they can get can't change things.

Posted by: Gentry on November 14, 2008 6:43 PM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)