LEWIS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee recently announced the death of Asian elephant Nichole at age 48. She was the 30th resident at the sanctuary.

According to a release, Nichole arrived at the sanctuary in Hohenwald on March 9 with a long history of chronic foot disease and osteomyelitis. Her health issues were compounded by more recent diagnosis of degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis and septic arthritis, the sanctuary reported.

The sanctuary said due to irreversible progression of her health issues and the increasing pain, Nichole was humanely euthanized on April 20.

📧 Have breaking come to you: Subscribe to News 2 email alerts

  • Elephant Nichole
  • Sissy & Nichole
  • Elephant Nichole
  • Nicky and Nosey

Nichole, AKA Nicky, was born in Myanmar in 1975 as part of a herd that worked in Burmese timber camps, which used captive and wild elephants for labor to extract and move large timber, according to the sanctuary. In 1980, Nichole was imported to the United States and spent the next several decades performing and on exhibition as part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey traveling circus.

In 2016, Nichole moved to San Antonio Zoo in Texas, where she became one of three female elephants known as the “Golden Girls.” After the passing of Nichole’s two companions, Karen and Lucky, in 2022, San Antonio Zoo made the decision to transfer Nichole to The Sanctuary to provide her with continued social and herd opportunities.

The Sanctuary’s Husbandry and Veterinary Team worked hard to care for Nichole. Individualized care for Nichole included physical therapy, multimodal pain and anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, cold laser therapy, CO2 therapy and medicated foot soaks.

On the morning of April 20, Nichole’s health rapidly declined as her Care Staff and Veterinary Staff worked to provide support and comfort. The team determined that her front feet and legs could not support her and medications no longer controlled the pain.

“Although it is absolutely the hardest part of the work we do, we are committed to ensuring that geriatric elephants are provided with comfort and dignity. Nichole won our hearts within hours of arrival. We all desperately wished for her to have years and years to experience and explore The Sanctuary, with new friends,” said Dr. Lydia Young with The Elephant Sanctuary.

⏩ Read today’s top stories on wkrn.com

As the Facilities Team prepared the burial site, three pathologists from the University of Georgia joined sanctuary staff to perform the required necropsy. Complete findings will not be available for several weeks. Preliminary findings noted severe foot disease, advanced degenerative joint disease and a large abdominal tumor, according to a release.

“We are so heartbroken to lose Nichole. She was only with us for a brief time, but it did not take long to love her. She was a very sweet elephant with a lot of spunk and resilience,” said Kristy Eaker, senior manager of elephant care. “She loved resting in the sunshine and spent her last day soaking in the warmth on the barn patio. We were so hopeful that she would make some progress, but it gives us great comfort that she is finally at rest.”

“It is with a heavy heart that we make this announcement. The Sanctuary is thankful for the opportunity to spend time with Nichole, to witness her strength and perseverance. We would like to thank all our professional colleagues who answered our call for help and information to best meet her needs in her end-of-life care,” said Janice Zeitlin, CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary.