MADISON, Wis. - Gracie, a 41-year-old white rhinoceros, passed away at the Henry Vilas Zoo this week.
Zoo officials said Gracie's health had taken a turn for the worse, and animal care staff made the difficult decision to euthanize Gracie this week.
Gracie was one of the oldest and longest-term residents at Vilas Zoo. She arrived in 1976 with her mate, George.
"For most of my life, Gracie and her mate George have been iconic animals at Henry Vilas Zoo," said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. "She will be dearly missed by my family and the thousands of other families that have grown up along with her over the last four decades."
George and Gracie were some of the oldest white rhinos in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
White rhinos typically live between 20 to 30 years in the wild. With care from Vilas zoo staff, both animals surpassed even AZA zoo life expectancy.
Gracie was diagnosed with a uterine tumor in 2001 and had been under close veterinary monitoring and treatment.
"Gracie is one of those special animals at our zoo that was loved by everyone who worked with her, and in turn, she was deeply bonded with the zoo staff, often coming up to get treats or to interact with us," said Henry Vilas Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. "Gracie was a big part of the zoo's history and was visited by generations of children and families."
Zoo officials said George is holding up well and receiving extra attention from staff. The zoo is working with The American Zoo and Aquarium Association's White Rhinoceros Species Survival Program to find a new female white rhinoceros to pair with George.