Scott and other welfare advocates note that a bobbing head is widely considered stereotypical behavior for elephants in captivity.
Rama's difficult life was cut far short of the expected life span of his wild relatives. Shermin de Silva, a scientist and founder of Trunks & Leaves, which promotes the conservation of the Asian elephant, says Asian elephants on average live into their 50s in the wild. Females will live into their 60s.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Rama was born on April 1, 1983. He was the son of Rosy, the Oregon zoo's first female elephant, who was captured from Thailand and ultimately died in 1993. Packy, Rama's father, is currently the oldest Asian male elephant in North America, the zoo says. Packy will be 53 on April 14; he was born in captivity but his parents were born in the wild.
Scott blames the Oregon zoo for Rama and Packy's health problems and says FOZE will request a necropsy report from the zoo.
"Rama and Packy have never lived anywhere else but the 1.2 acres at the zoo," she said. "They have never had a chance to live their life as a real elephants. They both have been sick, they both have had tuberculosis, they both have had foot disease, Packy has lost weight from all of the medications he's on." In fact, says Scott, "I always thought Packy would be the one who died."
FOZE protested the zoo on Packy's birthday last year. Packy has fathered seven calves. With Rama's passing, only two are still alive.
Scott says the Oregon Zoo's aggressive breeding program has resulted in grim fates for its young elephants.
"They want to increase their herd," she said. "And many of the elephants born at the zoo have died or gone to circuses. It is not a happy situation to breed elephants in captivity."
During his short and painful life, Rama was famed for his soulful paintings, which were featured in galleries and exhibitions. The zoo said Rama had "an unusually sweet temperament."