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Beloved elephant Banna survives heatstroke after emergency care

A recovering Banna at Shanghai Zoo yesterday. — Ti Gong

A recovering Banna at Shanghai Zoo yesterday. — Ti Gong

SHANGHAI’S renowned elephant Banna is recovering from heatstroke.

The 53-year-old Asian elephant, who once starred in a documentary in the 1970s, can now move freely after more than 40 hours of emergency treatment since she suffered a heatstroke on Monday, Shanghai Zoo said yesterday.

Her temperature has now returned to normal and she is in a stable condition, the zoo said. Banna is the oldest animal at the zoo. Elephants’ lifespans are similar to humans.

She could not stand up on Monday but has gradually recovered after receiving an intravenous infusion.

She can even run now, the zoo said. Animal keepers feed fresh bamboo leaves and plantain for Banna and use a spray on her to help her to cool down. In addition, 24-hour nursing is being provided.

Banna was walking very slowly on Monday afternoon before falling to the ground by the side of a water trough around 6:50pm, the zoo said.

Gui Jianfeng, a doctor of the zoo, says Banna had never fallen down before, not even after giving birth for the first time in 1978. “She always stands even in sleep or leans against a wall for a nap,” said Gui.

Her situation was very dangerous on Monday because her heart, lung and gastrointestinal tract would be affected if she could not stand, Gui added.

Banna’s “husband,” Bamo, accompanied the stricken elephant after her collapse and refused to leave her side. He tried to prevent zoo keepers getting close to Banna, increasing the difficulty of treatment, the zoo said.

Zoo keepers had to use a torch to scare Bamo away.

Banna developed a temperature of 38 degrees on Monday night, 2 degrees above normal temperature.

Zoo keepers used a 15-ton crane to move Banna, who weighs more than 3 tons, out of her cage for treatment.

Her temperature gradually dropped to 37 degrees after receiving 25,000 milliliters of infusion on Tuesday morning. Under the treatment of doctors and experts from Zhongshan Hospital and the zoo, Banna stood up at noon, and keepers used ice cubes and spray to cool her down.

She gradually recovered thanks to the relentless care and treatment of zoo workers.

Banna starred in the documentary “Elephant Hunting Diary.” Shot in 1971, the documentary told how zoo workers trapped wild elephants in deep mountains and forests in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province. Banna was captured during the film’s shooting.

In 1972, Banna arrived at Shanghai Zoo. Two years later zoo keepers said she fell in love with Bamo who had come from Beijing Zoo, and had since delivered eight elephants, a record for a zoo elephant in China.

When she came to the zoo, she was an instant celebrity, with thousands coming from the city and way beyond it to see her. At the time of the tumultuous “cultural revolution” (1966-76), Banna provided a colorful story for Shanghai and China.

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