Knoxville, Tenn. (May 26, 2020) – Zoo Knoxville is mourning the loss of Abba camel, a beloved zoo ambassador who touched hundreds of thousands of guests during his time at Zoo Knoxville.  He passed on Sunday, May 24, after a brief struggle with cancer.  He was 20 years old.

In late January, Abba was diagnosed with an inoperable obstruction in his bowel.  His caretakers and the vet team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine monitored him closely and made him comfortable but over the weekend his health began to rapidly decline.  When it became apparent nothing could be done to sustain his quality of life, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him.    

Abba was very bonded with his caretakers and clearly enjoyed being included in all conversations, usually listening intently for his name, which would prompt a sideways stare from him.  He was an especially gifted meteorologist, known as the “weather camel” for his keenly accurate ability to sense when rain was coming, at which time he would let his keepers know it was time to head for the barn because he disliked getting wet.  

Abba’s long-time companion “Ty” is being consoled by his caretakers, who spent the night in the barn with him on Sunday so he would not be alone.  He is getting extra attention from staff and visits from the Kids Cove goats to keep him company, which appears to be helping him cope with the transition.

“We are heartbroken, but find comfort in the fact that Abba was adored not only by our zoo staff but by our visitors, too,” said Phil Colclough, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education.  “The legacy Abba leaves behind is of the joy he brought to so many of our guests who had the opportunity to interact with him.”      

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville is Knoxville’s largest attraction and features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. The zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. daily.  As part of the COVID-19 Phase 2 reopening protocols, advance purchase online ticket sales are encouraged.  For more information visit