Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is mourning the sudden death of three-year-old Asian elephant Jai Dee.

On Monday morning zookeepers noticed he was suffering from abdominal pain, but veterinarians were able to ease his pain and his behaviour went back to normal. But Jai Dee’s condition deteriorated yesterday afternoon, and despite a full emergency response he couldn’t be saved.

“This was a very sad and sudden event,” senior veterinarian Doctor Larry Vogelnest said in a statement. “The preliminary cause of death has been identified as a torsion in the intestines, or twisted bowel as it is sometimes called. This can happen in other species, not just elephants, and is often fatal.”

The staff at Taronga Zoo are deeply saddened by the event.

“The entire Taronga family is in mourning for Jai Dee, and no doubt the other elephants will be mourning his loss as much as we are,” says zoo director and CEO Cameron Kerr. “He was part of our zoo family and we are beyond devastated by his loss. Our immediate focus turns towards supporting our zookeepers through this difficult period, which for them is like losing a family member.”

Jai Dee was born at Taronga Zoo in May 2017 and has lived with his mother Pak Boon and aunt Tang Mo. He was a cheeky, playful elephant with a fondness for swimming. “His name in Thai means ‘heart’, and today we lost a piece of Taronga’s heart by his sad passing,” says Kerr.

You can leave a condolence message on Taronga’s Facebook page.