KEEPERS at Chester Zoo have been left “deeply shocked and devastated” after an adult female elephant suddenly died.

Sithami Hi Way, 20, unexpectedly collapsed inside the Elephants of the Asian Forest habitat at around noon yesterday (Friday, September 7).

Keepers and vets immediately attended to her but she had sadly passed away.

Sithami was born at the zoo in 1997 and was said to be extremely popular with staff, members and visitors alike.

She had successfully given birth to several calves in her time, including female Sundara in 2004 and young male calf Aayu in January 2017.

Zoo bosses said she has left a “lasting legacy” to an important breeding programme for the endangered species.

A post-mortem will be carried out in the coming days to determine the exact cause of Sithami’s unexpected death.

A spokesman for the zoo said: “Elephants are highly social animals so any loss will affect them for a short period. We have no doubt the Hi Way family herd will take over duties of care for Aayu and our dedicated team will, of course, closely monitor the rest of the herd, which remains in good health.

“Our thoughts are very much with all of those who cared for Sithami day in, day out and who are deeply shocked and devastated at her sudden loss.”