Denver Zoo female Asian elephant Mimi has experienced a natural decline in health over the past few months due to her advanced age. Born in India, Mimi's birth date is not known. However she is believed to be at least 53 years old, making her one the oldest elephants in North American zoos. After long deliberations and careful consideration, zoo staff is offering her hospice care, where they will focus on providing her comfort and allow her to choose how she spends her remaining days.
"We have had the honor of caring for Mimi since 1961. She
has been a tremendous ambassador for generations of Denver Zoo guests
and a beloved member of our community," says Denver Zoo President/CEO
Craig Piper. "Although we will continue to offer her the best of care
and hope she rebounds, the time has come to allow her to live her
remaining time with the dignity and respect she so richly deserves. Mimi
has good days and bad days and we have no way of knowing how much time
she has left. However, no matter how much we wish, nothing will turn
back time and give her the health she enjoyed in her youth."
Zoo veterinarians and her caretakers have kept a close eye
on her and have recently seen a turn for the worse despite their best
efforts to help. Recently, she has begun refusing food and medication.
Current medical assessments of Mimi do not offer a specific diagnosis
outside of advanced age and arthritis. Animal care and veterinary staff
continue to consult with one another and outside experts to determine
all of Mimi's medical and husbandry options. Unfortunately, additional
diagnostic tests would require more invasive measures that would likely
not provide new information and could put her health at greater risk.
Therefore, these are not being pursued.
"We are at the point where we need to be cautious not to
try things that make us feel better. Instead, we are going to focus on
making Mimi completely comfortable while we monitor her quality of
life," says Denver Zoo COO Kyle Burks.
Zoo staff and vets are watching her very closely to monitor
her condition and quality of life and continue to offer medication and
therapy. Zookeepers will continue to allow Mimi to decide where in the
exhibit she is most comfortable. Currently, her favorite area is a
private outdoor yard behind the scenes at Toyota Elephant Passage and
some of the indoor bedrooms. Unfortunately, she cannot be seen by zoo
guests in these areas. Mimi also is able to spend time with her longtime
exhibit mate, Dolly if she desires. Staff also is providing an
electrolyte solution to keep Mimi hydrated as well as numerous food
options, hoping to encourage her to eat.
According to the Association of Zoo's & Aquariums Asian
Elephant Species Survival Plan, the average life expectancy for female
Asian elephants in zoos is 46.9 years old. Mimi is believed to have been
born in India around 1958 before making her way to Los Angeles via a
Mimi has been a very popular resident of Denver Zoo for
more than 50 years. On September 17, 1961 she arrived at what was then
the City Park Zoo in Denver, purchased and donated by Helen Bonfils,
then the secretary-treasurer of the Denver Post. The name Mimi actually
came from the protagonist in the musical, Sail Away, which Bonfils also
co-produced. At barely more than four-feet-tall, she was described by
one newspaper as "so lovable 'you could take her right into your home.'"
Mimi continues to be loved by everyone in Denver and Denver Zoo will
continue to provide updates when appropriate.
Denver Zoo is home to three other Asian elephants, female Dolly, male Groucho and male Bodhi.