Mourning Mama: Dallas Zoo Loses Matriarch Elephant

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DALLAS — The Dallas Zoo has announced the loss of its oldest elephant with the passing of Mama, a 45-year-old African elephant. Mama was the matriarch of the ‘Golden Girls,’ a five-member female geriatric herd in the Giants of the Savanna exhibit; she died Wednesday of age-related health conditions.

According to zoo spokesperson Laurie Holloway, Mama had been in declining health for months, undergoing massages, baths, blood tests, medication, and heat lamp treatments. In recent weeks, she was in hospice-style care to keep her comfortable.

Mama lived seven years past the life expectancy of a female African elephant in human care.  “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.

Mama was born in January 1970 and arrived at the Dallas Zoo in 2010. She was a mother and a grandmother, known for her love of sugar cane and pedicures, and for her tidy eating habits, raking her food into a neat pile and daintily scooping it up.

The other Golden Girls herd elephants, Gypsy, Jenny, Congo and Kamba, were given time to say goodbye, during which they gently touched her face with their trunks and trumpeted softly.

Elephant keeper talks have been cancelled for Thursday and Friday to give staff members time to grieve.

“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.

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