"One of a Kind"

The Phoenix Zoo community is mourning the loss of Reba, one of the Zoo’s Asian elephants. She was humanely euthanized this week following a recent and irreversible decline in her health. Reba was 51 years old. 

For many years, Reba has undergone numerous variations of treatments for arthritis and inflammation. Most recently, she has exhibited severely decreased activity levels, decreased mobility, and increasing levels of discomfort. Although there have been some good days, staff grew concerned when Reba chose not to explore her habitat as much as she normally would or be as engaged with her keepers during husbandry routines.

In further assessing Reba’s overall quality of life, the elephant and veterinary team installed cameras to monitor her overnight, which showed her to be inactive and uncomfortable as well.  Given her decline, physically, and poor long-term prognosis, they feel they have exhausted all treatment options. The decision to euthanize is never taken lightly and team members have had no shortage of conversations, meetings, efforts and tears in assessing her quality of life and making this difficult decision.

Reba has been a fixture of the Zoo for more than 20 years. She arrived in Phoenix from the Ringling Brothers Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida in 1999.

“Reba is incredibly intelligent and probably most well-known as the elephant who enjoys a fire hose shower during our Winter in July celebration,” says elephant manager Heather Wright. “She has a larger than life personality and is by far the most vocal elephant in the barn; her squeaks, rumbles and trumpets will be missed by everyone who knows her. There really are no words to convey how much her loss will mean to those who know and love her.

“Reba is one of a kind and will be missed beyond measure.”

Reba’s History at the Phoenix Zoo

Reba has been at the Phoenix Zoo for more than 20 years and has been a companion, through from a distance, to Sheena and Indu, 48 and 54 respectively.

While elephants are typically found in herds of related individuals, our females all came from different backgrounds and had shown their keepers through their actions that they prefer to be apart. A dedicated keeper team spent their days caring for, rotating them into the various habitats, performing husbandry and more to ensure the best possible care for our three ladies.

Asian Elephant Conservation

Native to 13 countries throughout South Asia and Southeast Asia, Asian elephants are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to poaching, habitat loss and human–elephant conflict. Conservation scientists estimate the total population to be between 30,000 and 50,000 individuals. Due to their need for large areas of sustainable habitat, Asian elephants are considered an umbrella species—their survival helps to maintain biological diversity and ecology over large areas.

"There Will Never Be Another Like her"

Heartfelt Memories From Reba’s Caregivers

There are times in your life when you meet someone, and you know your life will never be the same. That’s how it was when I met Reba.

I know some people may find it strange that I’m referring to an elephant as a “someone,” but when you truly get to know an elephant you realize that they are indeed a “someone.” More than that, really, they are a being unlike any other.

I never would have guessed about how much I have fallen in love with these beings we call elephants, and Reba was a huge part of why I fell so hard. Reba has become such a huge part of my heart that I am worried about how mine will go on now that she is gone.

She will live on in my heart and my memories, and I will always remember how blessed I was to be just a small part of her life; I just hope she realized what a huge part of mine she was. I will miss you big girl; life won’t be the same without your larger than life personality in the barn. I will miss your squeaks that always came when you wanted attention and refused to be ignored. I will miss the quiet moments we spent together just you and I, with the rumbles I could feel to my core. I will miss your trumpets that came when you were having the best times of your life, like when you were getting showered by the firefighters or you were playing with your keepers in the barn. I will miss that twinkle in your eye, and the way you could look into my soul.

I will especially miss the endearing way you would drop your head so you could be eye level with your keepers when you wanted some love. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me over the past 20 years. Like how a storm is not something to run and hide from – instead of dreading a storm, make the best of it (it really is the perfect time to take a swim and play in the mud); that scaring someone and making them jump can be highly entertaining; and probably most importantly that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Reba was known to be a tough elephant but once you got to know the true Reba, there were so many other beautiful sides to her. There will never be another like her. She was one of a kind and I will miss her more than I can ever express in words.

Until we meet again, Miss Reba…

Reba…so much elephant in that one word.

Working with you was an adventure, to say the least. You definitely kept me on my toes. But hearing you “squeak” when you were pleased with something is a sound I will miss forever. 

You are the most intelligent creature I have ever worked with and it was an honor to be included as one of your caregivers over the years. Our “herd” won’t be the same without you; you will be greatly missed but live on in our hearts. 

Rest, sweet Reba, and may you now chase pigeons to your heart’s content!

Reba was a force of nature. Her keepers, both past and present, would never argue that fact. She kept us on our toes and put us in our place if needed.

She was also full of so much affection if you were lucky enough to know her. You could feel her rumble in every part of your body, no matter if it was soft like a purr or loud like an airplane, you felt it. She was full of fire. She will forever hold a deeply special place in the hearts of those who knew her. 

Miss Reba, you will be so missed. Life just won’t be the same without hearing your squeak or feeling your rumble. People have told me that it was lucky you ended up here with us, and while that’s probably true, I think we were the lucky ones.

Rest easy. Rest in painless peace. It was an honor to have known you. You are a legend.

I had the privilege of working with Reba for almost seven years. When I first met her, I learned that she does not trust easy and that she will test you to make sure she knows you are going to stick around for the long haul.

After that, I told myself that I was going to work as hard as I could for as long as it took to gain her trust and affection. She challenged me in more ways than I ever expected, but I have learned so much from her. Getting to know her was an honor and loving her was one of the best privileges I will ever have.

I will never forget how her eyes pierced my soul, how much she loved to wear her food (hay and browse), how much she loved any and all carbs and how she would stick her tongue out in a perfect cup for you to put food in. 

She was so special and anyone who met her knew it right away. With her huge personality, sass and loud screams, she was nothing other than one of a kind. She touched so many people’s hearts and will live forever in the memories of her keepers, both past and present, volunteers and guests. In all honesty, words will never be able to express what Reba meant to me or how much I love her. 

Miss Reba Roo, you will be missed more than you know… and I love you so much.

Reba was grand… not just in her size, but in her personality, her relationships and her impact on everyone who visited her at the Zoo. Her presence and charisma could not be matched by anyone or anything in the Zoo. 

I have been at the Phoenix Zoo all my life; as a child, Reba was the elephant I watched roam the elephant habitat; as a volunteer I talked to visitors about her, but I never imagined I would ever be her keeper.

My first time working with Reba changed me forever. Working with Reba wasn’t always easy, she had her challenges, but there was no greater reward than the first time she gave you her foot to scratch or bent down low and rumbled in contentment at you being there.

Reba, your trumpet will echo on in our hearts forever. You will be missed by your keepers and everyone else whose heart you touched.

Reba had such a big personality; it was hard not to smile around her. I looked forward to her very vocal greeting as soon as we arrived in the morning. I loved her sassy spirit and couldn’t help but laugh when she decided to shake off some hay and have a snack in the middle of a shift. She taught me so much about elephants and gave me passion to share my love for them with others. I am so grateful to have been a part of her long life even for a short time. And I will forever be grateful for everything she taught me and all the joy she has brought to everyone here at the Zoo. She was loved by so many and we will never forget her. 

"Larger Than Life"

"A Legend"