The first elephant to be conceived by artificial insemination in the UK has died of a heart condition.
Vets from around the country battled for two days to save 20-month-old Asian bull elephant Ganesh Vijay but he passed away on April 13.
Ganesh made headlines around the world when he was the first elephant to be born by artificial insemination at Twycross Zoo, Leics.
Vets used pioneering procedures to impregnate his mother Noorjahan and she gave birth on August 6, 2009.
But despite the excitement surrounding his arrival he was dogged with health problems.
His devastated keepers found him collapsed in his shelter on Monday last week and he died two days later.
Zoo director Suzanne Boardman said: ”We are all very sad to lose such an affectionate and endearing individual.
”We at Twycross have been incredibly grateful for the last 18 months we have had with the most delightful, playful little boy who always tried to please.
”We will always be grateful to have had this time with him and our heart goes out to Noorjahan. We will miss him.
”I am incredibly proud of the elephant keepers and the veterinary team who cared so well for him throughout.”
His mother Noorjahan was part of a family of five elephants who moved to the zoo from the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal in 1998.
Ganesh battled with poor health from an early age and suffered from epileptic fits.
When he was born he needed five weeks of care from zoo staff and his mother to keep him alive.
When he was 10 weeks old he was blessed by a Hindu priest who prayed for him to have good health and a long life.
Curator Neil Dorman said the rest of the elephants seemed subdued since Ganesh’s death.
He said: ”It is such a shame. It came on really quickly – he just became ill and died from a heart condition on Wednesday.
”Obviously, we are going to have a post-mortem examination so we should know more after that.
”Elephants are very sociable. They live in very strong, bonded herds.
”It is difficult to interpret how, exactly, they are feeling. Obviously, it is a major loss from the herd and a notable absence, so they are pretty quiet.”
Mr Dorman said Ganesh, who was the third elephant to be born at the zoo, was with his mother when he died and his body was left with her several hours.
He said: ”When animals die in the wild they don’t just suddenly vanish. The herd members spend time with him and they accept they have died.
”It is an important part of the grieving process.”