A WELL-KNOWN but lonely Thai elephant passed away at the age of 69 in Japan yesterday.
At the time of her death, Hanako was the oldest pachyderm on Japanese soil, where she had been living since she was two.
She spent most of her life alone, rarely getting the chance to interact with animals of her species.
Japan Times reported on its website that Hanako was pronounced dead at around 3pm yesterday. The cause of death was not immediately known, though an autopsy is scheduled for |today.
Kiyoshi Nagai, head of the Inokashira zoo, said Hanako died peacefully without any suffering.
“I wanted her to live a little longer. I really want to thank all the people who have loved Hanako all these years,” Nagai said.
Hanako came to Japan as a gift from Thailand as a symbol of friendship in 1949. After living in Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo for a few years, she was moved to the Inokashira zoo in the western part of the city in 1954.
“Hanako arrived in Japan shortly after the war and gave dreams and hopes to children,” Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe said in a statement.
“Her death is really regrettable, but I pray [for her] from the bottom of my heart.”
Her 69th-birthday party was to be held on March 21, but was cancelled because of her poor health.
In 2012, the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gave an award to Hanako in recognition of her long life and contribution to the sense of “togetherness” between humans and animals.
Last year, an English-language blog about Hanako sparked an Internet petition that collected 300,000 signatures as of January urging that she be moved to a sanctuary in Thailand where she could interact with other elephants.