USDA: No evidence Topeka Zoo violated any standards in death of elephant Shannon

Shannon, a 35-year-old, 5,500-pound African elephant, arrived at the Topeka Zoo in August 2016. She died Dec. 11, 2017. (2016 file photo/The Capital-Journal)

A federal inspection regarding the Dec. 11 death of Shannon, a 35-year-old African elephant at the Topeka Zoo, found no evidence the zoo violated any standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, deputy Topeka city manager Doug Gerber said.


A veterinary medical officer from the USDA’s animal plant health inspection service presented the zoo a report Tuesday indicating “no non-compliant items” were found during the inspection, Gerber said in a news release Wednesday.

That officer had begun a focused inspection of the Topeka Zoo’s elephant program on Jan. 3.

The female elephant’s cause of death remained undetermined Wednesday, Gerber said.

The veterinary pathology department at Kansas State University was evaluating tissue samples taken from the elephant during a necropsy performed Dec. 11, he said.

Shannon died that day after spending about 20 hours on the ground over a two-day span. When she was found on the ground Dec. 10, a team lifted Shannon using a recently developed Down Elephant Protocol, which zoo director Brendan Wiley said to his knowledge hadn’t been done with an elephant in America.

“I think the USDA was very impressed with our preparedness to address a down elephant situation,” Wiley said in Wednesday’s news release. “Significant time was spent during the inspection to identify whether or not key staff were appropriately involved during the 24 hour period before Shannon passed.”

Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.