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Oklahoma City Zoo officials release cause behind beloved elephant’s death

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Chai the elephant died at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials at the Oklahoma City Zoo have released information related to the death of a beloved Asian elephant.

In January, zookeepers announced the death of Chai, a 37-year-old female Asian elephant, who arrived last May from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

“Our hearts are broken,” said Tara Henson, the zoo’s director of public relations. “There were no clinical signs of health issues with Chai. She was normal, behaving well yesterday.”

At the time, veterinarians and staff at the zoo said Chai had undergone regular checkups and appeared to be healthy.

During a necropsy, veterinarians said that everything appeared to be normal.

However, zoo officials say a recent evaluation of Chai’s skeleton found abnormalities.

Experts say her skull showed severe tooth abnormalities that were not detectable prior to her death.

In fact, officials say both upper molars were severely deformed and twisted with little remaining chewing surface.

“Based on all of the necropsy findings, it is most likely that Chai had a congenital abnormality of her teeth that progressively worsened throughout her life. The abnormal surfaces of her molars prevented her from chewing food properly, which led to reduced ability to extract caloric content despite an excellent appetite and intake of a normal quantity of food,” a news release read.

Officials say there was no treatment that could have corrected the condition.