World's oldest elephant dies at 69 in Japan zoo

Tokyo:The world's oldest elephant that once sparked a petition drive to improve its living conditions has died at 69 in a Japanese zoo. The elephant Hanako, which means "Flower Child", was found lying on her side on Thursday at the Inokashira Park Zoo on the outskirts of Tokyo, Xinhua news agency quoted a zoo spokesman as saying. Efforts to raise her were not successful, and the zoo confirmed the death, he said. A gift from the Thai government, Hanako was transported to Tokyo in 1949 when she was two. She was once described as the world's loneliest elephant by animal rights organisations because she was born in the wild but spent all of her life caged and alone in a concrete enclosure with little greenery. Hanako's plight sparked a campaign after photos of her poor living conditions circulated among animal lovers. Last year, nearly half a million people signed an online petition urging the zoo to free Hanako from her "concrete prison" and send the pachiderm back to Thailand. However, the zoo said a transfer was impossible because she was too old to endure a long journey. The Thai embassy said the death of Hanako, a goodwill Thai ambassador to Japan, has "saddened the people of Thailand and Japan".