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Zoo News

Zoo News

Zoo mourns loss of Mama, elderly matriarch of ‘Golden Girls’ elephant herd
May 14, 2015

The Dallas Zoo is saddened to announce the death yesterday of African elephant “Mama” due to age-related health conditions.

At 45, Mama was the oldest of the Dallas Zoo’s five-member geriatric female herd. She had been undergoing dedicated geriatric health care for many months, including massage, baths, blood tests, medication and heat-lamp treatments. In recent weeks, Mama’s health had declined, and her care evolved to hospice-style efforts designed to keep her comfortable. She lived more than seven years past the 38.4-year median life expectancy for a female African elephant in human care, and was one of the 10 oldest elephants in the United States.

“Mama’s longevity and excellent quality of life are a testament to the loving care and expertise of our elephant keepers and veterinary team,” said Gregg Hudson, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Zoo.

“This is a difficult day for our staff and the community. We take our responsibility to care for these magnificent animals very seriously, and we’re heartened that her final years were spent in a social herd in which we saw positive, normal elephant behavior,” said Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., the zoo’s vice president of Animal Operations.

Mama, whose estimated birthdate was January 1970, was often called an “old soul.” This curious mother and grandmother was known for her sweet tooth, favoring sugar cane, and tidy eating habits (she would rake her food into a neat pile and daintily scoop it up). From the time Mama arrived at the Dallas Zoo in 2010, zookeepers noticed she was very curious and could be the instigator of mischief. She loved being groomed, especially “pedicures,” getting attention from guests and her keepers, and being vocal with her herd.  She was the matriarch of the Dallas Zoo’s “Golden Girls” and received much special care because of her advanced age and conditions resulting from injuries she sustained long before she came to the Dallas Zoo.

After Mama died, the other elephants in the herd, Gypsy, Jenny, Congo and Kamba, were given time to say goodbye, during which they gently touched her face with their trunks and trumpeted softly.

The Dallas Zoo keepers, who are dedicated to conservation efforts, request memorials be made in Mama’s name to Dr. Foley’s Tarangire Elephant Project, our partner in protecting elephants in Africa. Information about the Project can be found at Donations may be mailed to Mama Elephant Memorial, c/o Dallas Zoo, 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas, TX 75203, and we will forward 100% to the Project.

Community members can share their sympathies with zookeepers on the Dallas Zoo’s Facebook page. The elephant keeper talks will be cancelled today and tomorrow to give the staff time to grieve.

The elephant herd’s home, the Giants of the Savanna, was specifically designed for the care of older elephants, as well as younger ones. The habitat can be changed to address the needs of individual animals, such as adding logs and piles of sand for leaning and resting for older animals. The habitat also was designed, with help from elephant expert Dr. Charles Foley, to include migration pathways that allow the herd to walk more than 10 miles per day.

VIDEO: Mama in the Savanna: