"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…