57-Year-Old Bunny the Elephant Lives to a Ripe Old Age

From the Elephant Sanctuary
Hohenwald, Tennessee
May 15, 2009

On May 14, at around 3:30pm Central Time, Bunny, the second to the oldest elephant resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, died peacefully in the company of her caregivers. Bunny’s long time elephant companions, Shirley and Tarra, kept a round-the-clock vigil nearby.
Bunny suffered from no diseases, and approximately six weeks prior to her death had visibly slowed down and was no longer walking as far as she usually did. A necropsy will be performed on Saturday, May 16 with her burial immediately following. The veterinary team that attended Bunny during her short transition expect the necropsy finding to support their suspicion that Bunny died of natural causes as result of her age.

Bunny was born in 1952, captured in the wilds of Asia and transported to America as a young calf. For more than forty years, she lived at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana.

In 1999 Bunny was officially retired and arrived at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee on September 29, 1999 as the Sanctuary’s fifth resident. Within hours, Bunny had met and was instantly adored by all the other elephants, especially Shirley and Jenny. Her first days exploring the habitat were underscored by constant and cheerful trumpeting—a sign that she was more than pleased with her new home and friends.

Bunny is the first resident of the Sanctuary to die of natural causes; old age, a gift and a phenomenon for any elephant living in captivity.  Science tells us that the longevity of Asian elephants is around 60 years, but according to a recent study released by the AZA, the average life of an elephant in captivity is only 40 years. In another study, researchers analyzed data from over 4500 elephants to show that animals in European zoos have about half the median life span of conspecifics in protected populations in range countries. “We suggest stress and/or obesity as likely causes of zoo elephants’ compromised survivorship.” (R. Clubb, G. Mason et al.12/12/08)

Operating on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee www.elephants.com has been developed specifically to provide a place for traumatized elephants to recover from the debilitating experience of captivity. The nonprofit organization, accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants that have been removed from zoos and circuses. 

To find out more about the plight of captive elephants, and to learn more about  Bunny’s life and all the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, please visit our website at www.elephants.com.