Staying Ahead of the Herd
Jul 16, 2018 · Animal Story
Of all SCZ residents, Stephanie the elephant is perhaps the most famous. And she should be – she’s lived at the Zoo for more than 40 years!
Stephanie came to the Zoo at two years old in 1972 and has been here ever since. Over the years, she’s greeted hundreds of our guests and even created several paintings for special events.
For decades, Stephanie was one of just two elephants at the zoo.
However, that changed in 2016 with the opening of The Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley habitat. The Zoo used this much-expanded space to welcome 6 new elephants – Zuberi, Titan, Simunye, Xolani, Talia and Arusi – to help form a true herd.
But new beginnings can sometimes coincide with endings, too. As the new habitat was being built, Stephanie’s longtime elephant companion, Cinda, passed away. This was sad for the entire Zoo family, but especially for Stephanie, who had been side-by-side with Cinda for much of her life.
It’s never easy to lose a friend, but it’s even harder to lose a friend and then move to a new home, even a better one. However, through all of these changes, Stephanie’s done remarkably well. She’s quickly adapted to her herd, even becoming their matriarch. Her position is crucial since herds are family-like structures that depend on a strong leader.
She’s enjoying her new surroundings, too. The sprawling 5-acres of outdoor space is great for strolling about, and ample indoor spaces provide shelter when needed. Best of all, the elephant pool is the largest in the world, making it the perfect place to play on hot days.
At 8 feet tall and 7,400 pounds, Stephanie’s physical presence is grand, and it turns out she has a big personality to match. She’s known to be a show-off and a bit dramatic in only the best ways, with bigger ear and head movements than her companions and the tenacity to lift or knock over moderately sized tree trunks when she feels so inclined.
Even so, she is just as likely to offer support to the herd and interact with them continually. This is important since elephants are by nature very social creatures. On any given day, you can see them enjoying their time together, going for a swim or enjoying the trees and grass. Notice that they rarely go off alone – it’s always more fun to be with friends!