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Remembering Packy

Feb. 9, 2018, 2:21 p.m.
Topic: Community, Elephants
Bull asian elephant Packy interacting with herd in the year 2000.

A message from elephant curator Bob Lee

I love all of the elephants here, but Packy was my favorite. I worked with him for 17 years, and he was by far the most impressive animal I've ever known. He is on my mind more than ever today, because it is one year ago that we had to say goodbye.

Packy was suffering from a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis that was virtually untreatable. Once we found this out, we consulted with experts from around the country — veterinarians, pharmacologists and bioethicists — and, following a lengthy search for alternative options, the difficult decision was made to euthanize him.

When we did so, some people thought we acted too soon, that we should have waited until Packy was clearly showing signs of suffering. Others said that, given the drug-resistant nature of his TB and the potential risk of transmission, we might rather be faulted for waiting too long.

It hurts sometimes to hear second-guessing from people who weren't close to Packy, but I understand it. He touched millions of lives, and nobody wanted this to be the end for him.

What's harder, though, is to see people deliberately exploiting Packy to advance a preconceived agenda. It trivializes his life and is especially hurtful to those in the community who grew up with Packy and knew him well. It is hurtful to those of us who cared for him daily and for whom his loss was deeply personal.

While others may mark this day by politicizing Packy, I plan to honor his memory privately with the professional animal-care team that knew him best.

A common saying among veterinarians is better an hour too soon than an minute too late — that is because they have seen many times over what "too late" looks like, and it can be terrible for an animal. While there is no question Packy left us too soon, I take comfort in knowing he left us on a good day rather than a bad one.

Rest in peace, Packy. We will hold you in our hearts forever.