One of the only African bull elephants in North America suitable for breeding has died at the Oakland Zoo.
Smokey, a 14,000 pound, 11-foot tall male, died Sunday morning, zoo officials said. He had suffered an unidentified illness for several weeks, but veterinarians were treating him with antibiotics, said Allison Lindquist, zoo assistant director.
Veterinarians are trying to determine the cause of death. A virus is the likely killer, Lindquist said.
"He laid down in his stall and wouldn't get up," Lindquist said.
Smokey was 29 -- most elephants survive about 50 years in captivity. He lived at the zoo longer than any other animal, arriving at age 2 after being taken from the wild in South Africa before such captures were outlawed.
He was the only male in a herd of four elephants. A female is expected to give birth in September to a calf he fathered.
In January 1991, Smokey attacked and killed a veteran animal keeper.
Even so, a grief counselor will be available for zoo personnel this week, Lindquist said.
"The staff and public have kind of grown up with him," Lindquist said. "He was a spectacular animal."<