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Denver Zoo: Mimi the 53-year-old elephant dies after "natural decline in health"

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Mimi the Denver Zoo elephant is now eating bagels in heaven.

Mimi was euthanized Tuesday after what the zoo describes as "a natural decline in health." At 53, she was the oldest elephant at the Denver Zoo and the seventh oldest zoo elephant in the entire country. Mimi had been in hospice care for a couple months, roaming her exhibit as she pleased and eating as many bagels, her favorite food, as she desired. But on Tuesday, she took a turn for the worse.

Mimi lost the ability to move her trunk and had trouble standing, the zoo reports. She was euthanized Tuesday evening.

"This is never an easy decision, but it was the right one," Brian Aucone, vice president for animal collections, said in a press release. "We watched Mimi closely and saw her condition deteriorate rapidly. We made a promise to her to keep her comfortable and decided it was time to say goodbye. We'll all miss her very much."

Last month, we chatted with Dale Leeds, the zoo's large-mammal curator, about Mimi's condition. She didn't have a diagnosis beyond old age, which caused her to tire easily and lose her appetite. Sensing she might be nearing the end of her life, zookeepers decided the best course of action was to keep her comfortable -- which came with some perks that Mimi, who loved elephant junk food, enjoyed, including unlimited bagels.

Mimi was known as a "schmooze artist" who loved being rubbed, Leeds said. "She likes coming up and putting her eye right at your eye level," Leeds told us in September.

Mimi came to the zoo on September 17, 1961, donated by philanthropist Helen Bonfils, who was then secretary-treasurer of the Denver Post. Mimi was named after the protagonist in the musical Sail Away, which Bonfils co-produced.

"This is an incredibly sad loss for Denver Zoo and our community," Craig Piper, zoo president and CEO, said in a statement. "A member of our family for more than half a century, she was a wonderful, charismatic ambassador to countless zoo guests. Words cannot describe how much she will be missed by us all."

The zoo has three other elephants: Mimi's longtime companion Dolly and two newer male elephants, Groucho and Bodhi. All three live in the new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit. For more on why the exhibit is groundbreaking, read our 2009 story "Trunk Show."

More from our News archive: "Meet David Wineland, Boulder-based co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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