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African elephant ‘Mila’ found dead at San Diego Zoo

SAN DIEGO – An African elephant was found dead Tuesday morning at the San Diego Zoo.

The deceased 45-year-old, 7,600-pound elephant, “Mila,” was discovered by animal care staff, the zoo said in a statement. The cause of her death was unknown.

"Mila" was first known as "Jumbo," when she spent 30 years touring New Zealand with the Whirling Brother Circus. She then joined New Zealand's Franklin Zoo, where she lived until a tragic accident in 2012 when she killed a veterinarian, Helen Schofield. "Mila" had grabbed Schofield with her trunk, squeezed her and lifted her in the air. Schofield later died from her injuries.

A coroner ruled the incident was an accident, not an attack. "Mila" was apparently spooked after brushing against an electric security wire.

The zoo closed shortly thereafter.

Then in 2013, "Mila" came to the San Diego Zoo, where she quickly became a popular member of the elephant herd. It was the first time "Mila" had joined a herd. For 37 years, the elephant had lived alone.

"Mila" died at what is considered an early age for elephants, as the animal's average lifespan is about 60 to 70 years.

Veterinary staff will perform the necropsy at the zoo’s Elephant Care Center.