Updated October 18, 2023
The Saint Louis Zoo is saddened to announce that Rani (pronounced “Ronnie”), a 27-year-old female Asian elephant, has died. She unexpectedly passed away at approximately 4 p.m. on Friday, October 13, 2023.
“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” said Michael Macek, Saint Louis Zoo Director. “Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”
Initial results from a necropsy (animal autopsy) performed by the Zoo's pathologist did reveal some preexisting changes in her heart. The significance of these changes is unknown at this time and further testing is being conducted.
At 3:39 p.m. on Friday, October 13, a small, lost dog made its way into the Zoo and was seen running in a non-public area near the Elephant Barn. While the Elephant Care team was working to contain the dog, which was quickly collected and handed over to a shelter, its presence caused the elephant that was outside to become agitated. The Elephant Care team worked quickly to move the elephant indoors away from the disturbance. While this situation was occurring outdoors, Rani was already indoors in her bedroom having dinner. She was not near, nor did she ever see, the dog.
The Elephant Care team observed Rani become agitated in reaction to the vocalizations from the herd. They saw Rani circle and vocalize, all within a very brief period, before collapsing.
Upon Rani’s fall, the Zoo’s Elephant Care and Animal Health teams immediately performed emergency care, however, they were unsuccessful in reviving her.
Following Rani’s passing, the Elephant Care Team, current and past, as well as all of the elephants were given time with Rani to say goodbye on Friday evening. The rest of the herd calmed down quickly and are all doing well.
“Rani was a special member of this elephant family group,” said Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, Zoological Manager of River’s Edge. “She loved playing with her sisters Maliha and Priya. While growing up here in St. Louis, she got to learn from her own mom, Ellie, on how to be an amazing mother herself. She had a great relationship with her animal care team and all of the other elephants. When socializing with her family she made a unique squeaking noise that her daughter Jade also mimics.”
River’s Edge Keeper Becky added, “It’s been a privilege to get to know Rani from just a youngster when she moved here to then watch her become a mother and grow with the elephant family. She will be greatly missed.”
More on Rani and the Elephants
Rani was mother to Jade, Kenzi and Avi, and daughter to Ellie. The Zoo’s bull elephant Raja fathered Rani and Ellie’s calves.
The mother and daughter duo, Rani and Ellie, came to the Saint Louis Zoo in July 2001, at age 5 and 29 respectively, from another Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoo to join the herd at River’s Edge. Their move to St. Louis was recommended by the AZA Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan. This program works in cooperation with other institutions accredited by the AZA to manage the Asian elephant population in North America and maximize their health and genetic diversity.
River’s Edge at the Saint Louis Zoo is home to a three-generation family of Asian elephants:
- Raja, 30: Three living daughters Maliha, Jade and Priya who live at Saint Louis Zoo
- Donna, 52: Unrelated “Auntie” to Raja
- Pearl, 52: Mother to Raja
- Ellie, 52: Mother to Rani, Maliha and Priya; grandmother to Jade
- Sri, 43: (pronounced See) Unrelated “Auntie” to Priya, Maliha and Jade
- Maliha, 17: Ellie and Raja’s daughter born August 2006
- Jade, 16: Rani and Raja’s daughter born February 2007
- Priya 10: Ellie and Raja’s daughter born April 2013
Asian Elephant Conservation
There are less than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and they are facing extinction due to habitat loss and poaching. Given the shrinking population of Asian elephants, the Saint Louis Zoo is committed to conserving this endangered species. The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Asian Elephant Conservation supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Indonesia, India and Laos. The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa also supports conservation of African elephants in Kenya through the Northern Rangelands Trust.
The North American population of Asian elephants, through the work of the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan and their partners, acts as an assurance population for their wild counterparts, to help ensure the future of this important species.
About Saint Louis Zoo
Home to over 16,000 animals, representing nearly 500 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit stlzoo.org.