Three Elephants Turned 50 Years Old at the Zoo

(Dec. 16, 2021, St. Louis, MO) 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.

About the Saint Louis Zoo 

Home to over 12,000 animals, representing 500 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo attracts approximately 3 million visitors annually and is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit