ASHEBORO, N.C. -- On Wednesday, the N.C. Zoo announced the death of one of its female elephants.
According to a news release, Little Diamond died Tuesday after eating sand. Zoo staff treated her for five days for intestinal problems.
Little Diamond was known in the U.S. zoo community as the first African elephant born in North America. She was born at the Knoxville Zoo in 1978 and transferred to the N.C. Zoo in May 1995, where she became part of the zoo's seven-member herd.
General Curator Ken Reininger said Little Diamond started showing signs of colic last Friday when she stopped eating and became lethargic.
A necropsy - an animal autopsy - showed Little Diamond had succumbed to an impacted large intestine. According to the zoo, 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."