Elephant Dumbo dies at Planckendael

Summary

The matriarch of the zoo’s herd was found dead by keepers this week, aged 48

‘We will miss her’

Dumbo, an Asian elephant at Planckendael animal park, has died aged 48. She was the matriarch of the herd at the zoo in Mechelen and her health had been worsening in recent weeks. Zookeepers found her dead in her enclosure earlier this week.

The elephant had lost the sight in one eye and suffered drastic weight loss. “We will investigate the cause of Dumbo’s death, but the chances are that she simply died of old age,” spokesperson Ilse Segers said. “We are happy that she reached a good age. Our keepers are going to miss her.” Asian elephants usually live to between 50 and 60.

Every animal that dies at the zoo undergoes an autopsy, and Dumbo’s body has been taken to Ghent University where tests will be carried out. Segers: “There are still many things we do not know about elephants, so we can learn a lot.”

‘The others listened to her’

Dumbo was born in the wild and arrived at Antwerp Zoo in 1974 at the age of two. She moved with the rest of the herd – Phyo Phyo, May Tagu, Kai-Mook and Yu Yu Yin – to Planckendael eight years ago. She had no offspring herself but was the leader of the herd. Segers: “Dumbo was very large and the other elephants always listened to her. The hierarchy will now have to change.”

Since moving to Planckendael, the herd has been joined by Suki and Tun Kai, the offspring of May Tagu and Kai-Mook respectively. May Tagu’s first baby, known only as Q, died shortly after he was born in 2015. Phyo Phyo died of kidney failure in June 2018, a week after her two-year-old daughter Qiyo. In a distressing month for the zoo, her baby son Tarzen then died aged 11 weeks. Yu Yu Yin is now the oldest of the herd, and zookeepers are waiting to see if she will take over the role of matriarch.

The animal park has now reopened after the closure enforced by the coronavirus safety measures. Until the end of May, only season ticket holders are able to visit, with the general public allowed from 1 June. Anyone wanting to visit must make a reservation via the website, as numbers are limited to allow physical distancing, and visitors must wear face masks within the zoo’s buildings.

Photo: Planckendael/Facebook