NORFOLK, Va. – An elephant who spent nearly 40 years at the Virginia Zoo before being relocated to Miami in 2016 has died, Zoo Miami confirmed Tuesday evening.
Lisa was a 44-year-old African elephant, who alongside 49-year-old African elephant Cita, were some of the Virginia Zoo’s most famous residents.
Zoo Miami says Lisa died Tuesday afternoon shortly after lying down on her side in the elephant barn. There are no obvious causes of death, but the zoo says she has been under observation since July 12 when she was found lying down in the barn and needed assistance from zoo staff to stand back up.
Since then, the zoo says she has started to resume normal activity and regain her appetite, but they are reluctant to say she had fully recovered.
The Virginia Zoo released the following statement about Lisa’s death:
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Lisa, the Virginia Zoo’s former African elephant, passed away at Zoo Miami earlier today. Lisa and Cita were relocated to Zoo Miami in April 2016 to join two other elephants, increasing the opportunities for more choices in social interaction and a more enhanced physical environment. This is a great loss to our community and we thank our staff and volunteers, and Zoo Miami staff who played a part in Lisa’s health and welfare, she undoubtedly had a tremendous impact on visitors as well.”
An extensive necropsy will be performed on Lisa to determine her exact cause of death.
Lisa had been at the Virginia Zoo since 1976 and Cita had been at the Virginia Zoo since 2005. They were relocated to the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens in April of 2016 after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums introduced new requirements for elephants in zoos.
The requirements say zoos with elephants must have at least three of them together so they are mentally and physically healthy. The AZA’s new requirements came after studies of elephants in the wild show that female elephants are very social and live in multi-generational herds with matriarchal leaders.
The Virginia Zoo looked for a third elephant to join Lisa and Cita but were unsuccessful. After exploring options, they chose Zoo Miami as the best option for Lisa and Cita due to a combination of climate, space and socialization, in addition to conservation education value.
Lisa and Cita joined Zoo Miami’s resident African elephants, Peggy and Mabel. They were affectionately called “The Golden Girls” because of their age and retirement in Miami. Zoo Miami is also the only zoo in the continental United States with a sub-tropical climate, allowing the elephants to enjoy the outdoors both day and night, all 12 months of the year.