WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Mass News is digging deeper into the death of Beulah, an elephant that died during this year's Big E.

Officials with the USDA confirm Beulah died of blood poisoning through a uterine infection.

It's causing many to wonder why the sick elephant was performing at the fair.

The USDA's animal division said Beulah died of septocimia through pyometra, a blood poisoning following a uterine infection.

Those officials said despite the seriousness of the infection, the Commerfords could prove that Beulah was being cared for by a veterinarian.

Less than a week into 2019 Big E, Beulah the elephant died.

The Asian elephant, owned by R.W Commerford and Sons, was supposed to be featured for the duration of the 17-day fair. However, after a few days, people starting taking videos of Beulah lying down, noting that she looked sick.

Big E officials later confirmed the elephant had died of natural causes.

Western Mass News has learned through the USDA, one of the agencies tasked with licensing zoos like Commerfords, that Beulah died of septicimia through pyometra.

Scientifically, it's a uterine infection that poisons the blood.

"Not only can they get septic, but the bacteria can produce a toxin or poison that can damage the kidneys," said Dr. Sherry Himmelstein.

We spoke with Himmelstein, a veterinarian at Spruce Hill about pyometra. She said it can affect large mammals and even house pets. She sai in the pets she sees, the infection is considered an emergency.

"These infections are very, very serious and they can often be fatal...They can be very lethargic, they can drink more, they can urinate more," Himmelstein explained.

The USDA answered questions from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal regarding Beulah's death and the death of Karen, another Commerford elephant that passed of a kidney disease.

In a statement to Blumenthal, USDA officials said: "The Commerford zoo provided documentation that Karen and Beulah were under veterinary care at the time of their deaths and that the care provided was appropriate."

"Our job is to ensure that they can show in their records that they have provided adequate veterinary care for any of their animals," said Lyndsay Cole with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.

Western Mass News spoke with the USDA over the phone. They could not confirm when Beulah was diagnosed with pyometra. They said the Commerfords are tasked with keeping detailed vet records and that the USDA periodically checks them.

The USDA said the veterinarian retained by the Commerfords would have made the decision on Beulah's health when she was at The Big E.

[Reporter: A veterinarian would have to check her over and determine if she was ok to perform?]

"Correct," Cole said.

We have also reached out to the Commerford Zoo for a response, but have not heard back.

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Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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(1) comment


Thank you for this story. Please keep on top of this. Hold Commerford accountable. The public deserves to know the truth before this zoo goes out and acquires more animals, maybe even more elephants, that could become victims of the same neglect, incompetence and greed. If you have ever seen a picture of what pyometra looks like in a uterus you would be sickened to imagine the suffering poor Beulah endured for so long.

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