WINSTON-SALEM N.C. (Reuters) - The first African elephant to be born in North America has died at age 36 after ingesting too much sand at a North Carolina zoo, officials said on Wednesday.

"Little Diamond" was born in 1978 at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee and had lived at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro since May 1995, the zoo said.

The female elephant began showing signs of illness on Friday, when it stopped eating and grew lethargic, and died on Tuesday after several days of treatment, according to a zoo statement.

A necropsy on Wednesday showed the animal's large intestine was impacted from sand, which is commonly used by zoos in elephant facilities and rarely causes fatalities, said zoo spokesman Rod Hackney.

He said it was unclear why Little Diamond had ingested so much.

African elephants are the world's largest land mammals and live up to 70 years on average in the wild.


(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jim Loney)