ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis Zoo’s Asian elephant, Donna, has a tumor. Due to being diagnosed with a condition known as primary hyperparathyroidism, surgery is not an option.

The tumor secretes a hormone that controls Donna’s body’s calcium level, which is the root cause of her illness. However, the Saint Louis Zoo‘s dedicated Animal Care team is providing the best possible care for Donna.

Donna, at the age of 52, trusts the Saint Louis Zoo Animal Care team. This trust enables her to actively and voluntarily participate in her own health care. The Animal Care team includes training sessions with Donna for regular blood collections, urine sampling, hydrotherapy for joint health, and taking oral medications as needed.

Additionally, her care team continues to engage her in daily exercise routines, which focus on strength training, balance, and stretches to maintain joint mobility.

The Zoo says that Donna remains active despite her condition. She socializes with her herd, explores her habitats, maintains a healthy appetite, engages in self-maintenance behaviors, participates in enrichment activities, and undergoes training sessions with her care team.

Donna, born in the wild, joined the Saint Louis Zoo in 1971 at a young age. The care she has received is a testament to her age. Donna, Pearl, and Ellie, the elephants, celebrated their 52nd birthdays in 2023.

The Animal Care team has observed gradual changes in Donna’s behavior due to her illness in recent months. The team closely monitors her progression to ensure she maintains a high quality of life while coping with this irreversible condition.