A zoo in central Japan said their only camel, Hitomi, has died of heatstroke as the country swelters in record heat.
The 22-year-old mammal, relatively old for captive camels and thus at higher risk for heat exhaustion, was exhibiting some of the classic signs of heatstroke before it died last week, according to staff at the Okazaki City Higashi Koen zoo in Aichi prefecture.
“We’re very saddened by her death—she was a sweet animal that used to get very close to us during feeding time,” Haruna Hirose, a veterinarian at the zoo, told VICE World News.
Hitomi joined a number of animals that have suffered or died as temperatures soared to record levels across the globe.
Earlier this year, a severe heatwave in India saw birds falling out of the sky from exhaustion and heatstroke. Temperatures in parts of the country reached 50 degrees Celsius, and bird rescuers reported receiving an unusual amount of calls about sick birds. In the UK, which reported record temperatures in July, some pets came dangerously close to dying from heatstroke.
In Japan, some dog owners have opted to buy their beloved pets fans to keep them cool. Severe heat in Tokyo has strained power grids and temperatures have reached 35 degrees celsius in the capital for the 14th time this year—the largest number of severe heat days on record.
Hiroko Ooyama, the director at the zoo, said Hitomi had underlying symptoms that might’ve made her more susceptible to the heat. Okazaki city, where the zoo is located, recorded a sweltering high of 36.8 degrees just a day before the camel died. Such temperatures prompted the prefecture to issue a heatstroke alert.
The camel began to have trouble walking and was spending more time sitting starting in February. Though she was still full of energy, her appetite began to decline significantly from around July. From August 2, a day before her death, Hitomi started to lose her ability to eat and drink water. The staff treating her found that her body temperature had risen to 42 degrees Celsius, higher than normal for camels.
She was breathing rapidly, drooling more than usual and grinding her teeth. To treat her symptoms, zookeepers poured cold water on her and into her rectum, a technique sometimes used to cool down animals. They also gave her an IV drip to help her rehydrate.
But none of the treatments worked. According to a vet that performed Hitomi’s autopsy, the camel died of heatstroke on August 3.
“Even though we knew that this day would come eventually, it was still very hard for us staff members to say goodbye,” the zoo’s director Ooyama told VICE World News.
The zoo has set up an altar where fans of Hitomi can offer flowers to mourn her death.
A day after Hitomi’s death, a miniature horse named Purima also died at the zoo. The mammal, age 30, died from old age, the zoo said.