Sunda's Sick: Topeka Zoo says elephant took a turn for the worse this weekend

Tembo and Sunda at the Topeka Zoo
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — The Topeka Zoo says one of its elephants has been sick recently and took a turn for the worse this weekend.

Zoo Director Brendan Wiley revealed Tuesday that they have been keeping a close eye on Sunda since last Monday, when the 58-year-old Asian elephant started blowing discharge from her trunk.

"Sunday morning, the illness took a turn for the worse. She became very lethargic; almost unresponsive. She was very pale,” Wiley said. “By early afternoon on Sunday, she began to stabilize."

The zoo’s medical team says the illness first looked like an upper respiratory infection, and they quickly put her on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. They are also trying to keep her hydrated. A cytology found no abnormal pathogens, while radiographs have ruled out any sinus blockage.

"Although she is more stable now, until we can pinpoint exactly what is going on she... prognosis is guarded," said Staff Veterinarian Dr. Shirley Llizo. "While it could just be a nasty upper respiratory infection, we can't rule out pneumonia, lung cancer or other systemic diseases."

Like elderly people, elderly elephants can have a harder time fighting some sicknesses, the zoo noted.

Sunda has been a favorite at the zoo for over a half-century, first coming to the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center in 1966. There are only 12 other female Asian elephants in North America that are older than her.

"Sunda is one of those animals that just steals your heart," said Wiley. "You hope they live forever but time has a way of catching up to all of us. We all hope Sunda will pull through this."