On 7th October 2022, the elephant Pocha, who a few months earlier, with her daughter Guillermina, had been taken from a zoo in Mendoza, Argentina, to an elephant sanctuary in Brazil, sadly died. Forty days after her death the full report of her autopsy was released, showing that the official cause of death was listed as severe chronic kidney disease in association with granulomatous inflammatory disease, in response to mycobacterium infection.

The report states, “Pocha had contracted a mycobacterial tuberculosis infection which, during the necropsy, presented itself in an atypical way… there were no signs of infection in Pocha’s lungs, only in her abdominal cavity…“This infection caused extensive damage throughout her abdominal cavity, including the spleen, stomach, intestines, liver, and lymph nodes.”

The report seems to blame the captive conditions in which mother and daughter lived during their years in the Mendoza zoo. It says, “the concrete house where Pocha and Guillermina lived had very little air circulation, limited natural light, and remained humid, all of which can open the door to various infectious agents.” The bacteria had not been detected before travelling because the mycobacterium test made was from a different strain.

At the time of her death, the Brazil Elephant Sanctuary wrote on its website, “we saw small signs that made us worry that she had underlying health issues, but nothing was ever diagnosed…a few days ago, we noticed that she was picky about her hay, although she was still grazing and enjoying all the food she was given. After a vitamin shot last night, she looked brighter, and although she was still tired, she had more light in her eyes. However, when we saw her again later that night, we found out that she had passed away.”

Sadly, after living in captivity in the former Argentinian zoo for 54 years, she only got to live in a better captive environment for a few months, but at least her daughter would be able to cope with her loss in the company of other caring elephants. Pocha had arrived in Mendoza from the London zoo, while Wilhelmina was born in the Mendoza zoo, which has now been converted into an Ecopark that only keeps autochthonous species. 

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.