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National Post
Published: Monday, July 31, 2006
Patsy, the 8,500 pound elephant, was the matriarch of the Toronto Zoo’s elephant herd. When there were fights to be broken up, it was Patsy that did the honours. Maintaining general order among the zoo’s other six elephants? That was Patsy’s job, too. And she was eminently qualified. At 40 years of age, and with over 30 of those years spent in Toronto, Patsy had the sort of experience an elephant needs to be taken seriously by its peers.

Combine that with her formidable presence (senior elephant keeper Eric Cole called her “imposing and unique”) and it was easy to see why Patsy had emerged as the head of the herd. But now Toronto’s elephants — Thika, Toka, Iringa, Tara, Tequila and Tessa— will have to find a new leader. Last Monday, zoo staff euthanized Patsy after determining that the degenerative arthritis that was causing her great pain could not be treated.

Elephants are complex, social animals. They understand and are moved by the death of one of their own. And so zoo keepers allowed the six remaining elephants to spend one last night with Patsy after she was put down. The elephants touched Patsy’s lifeless body with their trunks, tusks and feet — actions the Zoo’s CEO Calvin White says were signs of mourning. There is little doubt that Patsy’s keepers and some frequent Zoo visitors will also find a way to grieve the animal’s loss.

The Zoo has said that in the wake of Patsy’s death, and given the advanced age of its remaining elephant population, it will have to re-examine the direction its elephant exhibit will take in the future. Obviously, it should only take on the care of new elephants if it can afford to keep them in a healthy environment that allows them to thrive. But with this caveat, we hope the Zoo will decide to maintain its elephant exhibit in the years to come. Not only are these extraordinary creatures amazing to behold because of their size and strength; their social sensitivity — as evidenced by their ability to mourn a herd member such as Patsy — makes them especially intriguing to observe.

It is sad enough that Torontonians can no longer visit Patsy. It would be an even greater loss if they could no longer visit any of her kind.


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Remembering Patsy.

Sue Cat Elephant Cat2

Patsy, matriarch of Toronto Zoo's elephant herd, dies at 40
July 25, 2006 - 5:06 pm
By: Anne Winstanley

Patsy the elephant has died at the age of 40.

The matriarch of the Toronto Zoo's elephant herd for 33 years, CEO Cal White says she was euthanized after a period of failing health due to long term degenerative arthritis.

Because elephants mourn the loss of one of their herd, White tells 680 News the other elephants were allowed to spend the night with patsy following her death.

White says an autopsy was done today, and Patsy was to be buried late this afternoon, around 5 p.m., at a private site at the zoo.


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  • ellies
Thank you all for remembering elephant Patsy, and your wonderful pictures.

Here is the message from a letter that I received from the Toronto zoo:

Sometimes its just so hard to say
goodbye to an old friend.

Patsy, the matriarch of our elephant herd, was indeed our friend. She was clearly, the boss! Patsy had to be euthanized on Monday, July 31st due to an ongoing, and progressively worsening, medical condition. Our specialists fought to save her but ultimately, could not.

You may have seen something in the newspaper about this but in case you missed it we felt our Adopt-an-Animal elephant "parents" should hear the news directly from us. It is always difficult to lose an animal but it is indeed a part of life at the zoo. Even though we will miss Pat she has left us with wonderful memories.

Thank you for being Patsy's friend and all the other elephants: Iringa, Toka, tessa, Tara, Thika and Tequila.



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In fact the plight of Elephants is an international problem. Here is a link that suggests that we should re-think having Elephants in zoos at all. They are wonderful and magnificent creatures, and they are just, oh, so inconvenient. . .

Here is a quote from the above link:

"As the largest land mammal, elephants are genetically designed to move and in the wild are in motion for eighteen hours each day. Constant movement is necessary for their physical well-being, especially for foot, joint, and digestive health. Yet the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), a zoo industry trade organization, only requires a minimum outdoor enclosure size of 1,800 square feet for one elephant - the equivalent of six parking lot spaces. Lack of space in zoos causes captivity-induced physical and psychological health problems for elephants including debilitating foot and joint problems, arthritis, digestive disorders, and neurotic behaviors resulting from the severe confinement.

With the recognition that zoos cannot adequately provide for the complex physical and psychological needs of elephants, eight successful U.S. zoos have
closed their elephant exhibits, setting a positive precedent worldwide.

As the joints and feet [of zoo elephants] become progressively injured by life spent on a concrete floor, the pain the elephants feel makes them reluctant to move around as much on their sore legs and feet. This creates a vicious circle and downward spiral of pain, followed by less movement, causing further injury, causing more pain, causing even less movement, etc. It is a slow gradual process that does its damage bit-by-bit and this damage continues hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and through the long decades of a zoo elephant¹s life.

Michael Schmidt, DVM
former Chief Veterinarian
Portland Zoo"
Last edited by yogionefromobie
Thank you for your reply Nick.

I think that patsy came from a circus originally and had been poorly treated, as is the case with so many elephants. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by humans, as are so many things in nature.

From an article in the Globe and Mail newspaper, Sept. 7th, 2006:

As for Thika, Tessa, Tara, Toka, Tequila and Iringa, I know they are most definitely aware that one of their own is missing. The part that creates a lump in my throat is thinking that even though I understand why this had to happen, they can't. That maybe they're still wondering when Patsy is coming home. I wish I could reassure them that Patsy arrived home long ago, and rests securely in the heart of every creature lucky enough to have met her.

Natasha Rudnick lives in Toronto.


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