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December 16, 2021

Three Elephants Turned 50 Years Old at the Zoo

In 2021, the Saint Louis Zoo celebrated the 50th birthdays of Pearl, Donna and Ellie, three elderly Asian elephants that call the Zoo home. The median life expectancy for Asian elephant females under human care is 47.5 years old.

At 50 years old, our “Golden Girls” are considered geriatric, and they may require medical care specialized for their dynamic and individual needs beyond primary care as they get older.

  • Pearl was the first female elephant to give birth at the Zoo. She is the mother of our bull elephant Raja and grandmother to Maliha, Jade, and Priya. A good problem solver, she loves challenging puzzle feeders filled with special treats.
  • Donna has distinctive, flappy ears that are always moving. She is conversational and enjoys making sounds with her trunk on various objects. A fantastic auntie, she used to spar with a much younger Raja. Nowadays, she helps teach Raja’s kids manners, such as sharing food and respecting elders.
  • Ellie is a doting mother of three, a grandmother and our tallest female. She has a calm demeanor and does life by her own schedule. She enjoys pruning our trees and chilling in one of the pools under the waterfall.

Just like many people, these “Golden Girls” need increased support due to their age. The elephant care team, along with Animal Health and Nutrition teams, provide a unified approach to animal care through many different outlets, including daily exercises focused on stretching, in-depth health check-ups, and specialized nail and dental care. The multi-generation elephant family at the Zoo also is a critical part of the elephants’ mental and emotional health. Furthermore, the elephant care team implements a number of preventative measures to ensure the older elephants’ comfort and safety, such as conditioning the soil to provide a softer walking surface for the animals.

The Zoo will continue to provide exceptional care for all of its elephants, no matter their stage of life. Read more about the “Golden Girls” on our blog and social media.