February 12, 2015: Wanda, 57: one of the oldest Asian elephants in North America, Wanda was humanely euthanized at PAWS’ ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. following a long history of arthritis and foot disease, the leading cause for the euthanization of captive elephants. Wanda was born in the wild but was captured at a young age to be put on display in the United States. During her lifetime she was moved from one place to another, including Disneyland, a circus, zoos in Texas and then Detroit. In 2005 the Detroit Zoo (a leader in animal welfare as well as providing sanctuary for animals in need of rescue) decided to end its elephant program and opted to relocate Wanda and fellow Asian elephant Winky to PAWS’ ARK 2000. (Winky passed away in 2008.) Another Asian elephant, Gypsy, arrived at the Sanctuary, and it was discovered that they had been in a circus together more than 20 years earlier. They instantly remembered one another and could always be found close together. Even in death, their friendship endured. After Wanda passed away, Gypsy approached her friend, stayed by her side for a period of time, gently touched her body and “spoke” to her in soft rumbles before slowly walking away.
July 22, 2015: Iringa, 46: North America’s oldest African Elephant, who was living at the PAWS sanctuary, was euthanized following a long history of degenerative joint and foot disease. Her favorite time of day was her therapy pool sessions, where she would float, taking the weight off her feet and joints. Her caregivers would feed her special treats. After the session she would immediately go and cover herself in mud, like an elephant would do naturally in the wild. Iringa was born in Mozambique, Africa in 1969 and was captured before she was two years old and sent to the Toronto Zoo in 1974. She was one of seven elephants shipped to the zoo from Mozambique that year; Iringa was the longest-lived elephant from that group. Together with two other elephants named Toka and Thika, who were born at the zoo, Iringa arrived at PAWS in October of 2013 after the Toronto City Council voted to relocate the elephants following the Zoo’s decision to end its elephant program. Toka is 45 and still lives at PAWS.