|Death: ||Jan. 17, 2011|
Taj, the oldest Asian elephant in North America and an alumnus of Circus Vargas, has died at Vallejo's Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. She was 71.
Over the past several weeks, the quality of life for the pachyderm had declined significantly, according to a press release the park issued Tuesday morning.
"Taj was a remarkable elephant that touched millions of people over the course of her long life," park president Dale Kaetzel said.
"We are truly in mourning for this loss. Words cannot describe how our entire staff is feeling, in particular the elephant trainers who worked with her every day for years. She enjoyed a long and fruitful life, and in the 33 years she lived at our park, we all learned so much from her," Kaetzel said.
A necropsy on Taj will be performed at UC Davis. Park spokeswoman Nancy Chan said the life expectancy for Asian elephants is 44.8 years.
Most recently, Taj lived with other Asian elephants - 46-year-old Liz and 30-year-old Bertie Mae. She also lived with two African elephants - 33-year-old Tava and 29-year-old Valerie, according to the park announcement.
Senior elephant trainer Nick Way said Taj "is the kind of unique soul you hope to be lucky enough to encounter once in your lifetime." The elephant was patient and gentle and a role model for young elephants and young trainers alike, he said.
"No matter what was going on you could always count on Taj being excited to see you," Way said.
As a long-time member of the park community, Taj "wowed, educated and touched generations of park guests and employees."
Before she was retired about three years ago, she participated in the log demonstration show, stacking logs and "playing" tug-o-war with guests. Both activities were part of her daily exercise routine.
Here is some other information about Taj the park facility released Tuesday:
Though Taj's exact birthdate is unknown, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan studbook for elephants lists her birth year as 1940, according to the park announcement.
No known records exist of her first 30 years. In the early 1970s, she served as one of the lead elephants for Circus Vargas. As a performing circus elephant for six years, she traveled throughout the country with world-renowned elephant trainer Rex Williams.
In 1976, Taj was presented to the Hari Krishnas, who used her for a brief time as a symbolic part of their religious ceremonies.
Unable to manage her due to her mischievous nature and high energy level, they sent her to Southern California's Moorpark College where she participated in its Exotic Animal Training Management program.
In 1978, Taj was transferred to Marine World (the original name of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), when the park was still in Redwood City. There she gave elephant rides and would meet and greet park guests.
In 1985, Taj was part of the entire animal collection which came to the new facility in Vallejo - then known as Marine World Africa USA. Throughout the years, Taj was the park's primary animal ambassador.
Taj was a favorite among her trainers over the years, responded well to attention and enjoyed being around people. Trusting among her trainers, she would often present one of her front or rear legs, let out a deep rumble and wait for a rub down, the park announcement said.
Taj learned to paint with a brush in the late 1990s and was a "very proficient" canvas painter, the park said.
Last year, in recognition of Taj's milestone 70th birthday, staff honored her with a birthday "party," where she was presented with a bread-based, multi-tiered cake topped with her favorite fruits and vegetables.
"Taj was special," Way said. "One of the sweetest elephants you'll ever meet in your life. She'll be infinitely missed."
Obit by: By Sarah Rohrs / Times-Herald
Specifically: recent passing
Created by: S Chaney
Record added: Jan 18, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 64384222
|Photos may be scaled.|
Click on image for full size.