On Monday, the Phoenix Zoo announced the passing of Sheena, the Zoo’s 50-year-old Asian elephant.
According to the Zoo, her caretakers “found her laying down in her barn and unable to rise, and she passed shortly after of natural causes. Sheena has recently been stable but has been carefully managed for many years for chronic osteoarthritis and gastrointestinal issues.”
Sheena had been at the Zoo for 21 years, arriving at the Zoo in 2000 from the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation.
“Sheena was the ‘sneaky one,’” says Heather Wright, Manager of Elephants. “She wasn’t outwardly rambunctious, but we’d hear her playing with toys in the barn, and when we’d come around the corner to watch her, she would freeze and give a look like ‘What? It wasn’t me!’ and act innocent. It was so funny! Sheena was incredibly intelligent, extremely sweet and she seemed to love everybody.”
“There were times elephant keepers were hosting end-of-life tours for people who had a “last wish” to see our remarkable Asian elephants, and Sheena would gravitate to that particular person and offer out a kind and insightful “rumble,” to which guests would comment they felt a deep connection with her. It was a beautiful thing to witness,” says Wright. “She will be sorely missed by all her caretakers here at the Zoo, as well as our members and guests.”
The average life span for Asian elephants is 45 years old.