Tulsa Zoo elephant begins hospice care

The Tulsa Zoo’s first elephant, Gunda, is experiencing a natural decline in health because of her advanced age. After thoughtful deliberation, animal care and veterinary staff are initiating hospice care, to ensure Gunda is comfortable as staff monitors her quality of life.

The longest resident of the Tulsa Zoo, Gunda celebrated her 67th birthday last November, making her among the oldest elephants in human care. She is the Tulsa Zoo’s first elephant, arriving in 1954.

“As the animal who holds the distinction of living at the Tulsa Zoo longer than any other animal in our care, Gunda has a special place in our hearts,” says Vice President of Animal Conservation and Science Joe Barkowski. “She is one of our better-known residents thanks to her longevity, intelligence and, of course, physical size. We are grateful to be able to continue focusing on her quality of life.”

Zoo veterinarians and her caretakers always keep a close eye on Gunda and have recently noted a decline in her health. “We monitor her quality of life including mobility, appetite and attitude,” says Zoological Manager Michael Connolly. “We make adjustments daily, depending on how she is doing.”

Gunda remains at the elephant habitat with her companion female Sooky. A male, Sneezy, is always nearby, but is not housed with Gunda. Depending on the weather, Gunda may be enjoying the outdoor habitat or may move inside the barn, viewed through the Elephant Interpretive Center.

“We are determined to make the best of our time with Gunda,” says Connolly. “We feel very fortunate to work for her.”

About Gunda

Gunda is the most senior resident of the Tulsa Zoo, having spent more than 60 years in our care. Tulsa’s first elephant made national headlines with her arrival in 1954. Her journey was even published in a children’s book, “Ghunda’s Bermuda Holiday.” Gunda is known by her zookeepers as an easygoing elephant, who gets along with the other animals and all of the animal care staff. As the bravest member of the herd, she takes new things happening in stride. Gunda loves going for a dip in the pool and zookeepers often find her almost fully submerged on a summer day.

Source: Tulsa Zoo Facebook Post

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