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Asian elephant Rani unexpectedly passed away


Saint Louis Zoo elephant care team and fellow elephants mourn the loss

The Saint Louis Zoo has announced1 that Rani (pronounced “Ronnie”), a 27-year-old female Asian elephant, has unexpectedly died on Friday, October 13, 2023, at approximately 4 pm.

Rani, the beloved Asian elephant (Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo).

Rani, the beloved Asian elephant (Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo).

“We are absolutely devastated. We ask for the community’s thoughts and support during this difficult time,” expressed Michael Macek, Saint Louis Zoo director, in a release. “Our team of professional animal care experts did everything possible, but we couldn’t save Rani.”1

According to a release,1 initial necropsy results displayed preexisting heart changes. Currently, the significance of the changes is unknown and further testing is being conducted.

About 20 minutes before Rani’s death, a lost dog who entered the zoo was seen running in a non-public area by the Elephant Barn and its presence irritated an elephant outside. As the elephant care team worked to contain the dog and bring it to the shelter, it then moved the agitated elephant indoors. The whole time Rani was indoors in her bedroom eating dinner, and she never saw the dog.

However, Rani became agitated in response to the vocalizations from the herd. She circled and vocalized briefly before collapsing.1 When Rani fell, the zoo elephant care and animal health teams quickly performed emergency care, however they were unable to revive her.

After Rani passed, the current and past elephant care team and all the elephants were given time with Rani to say goodbye. The remaining herd calmed down quickly and are doing well.

Rani mothered Jade, Kenzi, and Avi, and was a daughter to Ellie. The zoo’s bull elephant Raja fathered Rani and Ellie’s calves.

Rani and Ellie arrived at the St Louis Zoo in July 2001, at age 5 and 29, respectively, from another Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoo. This move was based on an AZA Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan.

“Rani was a special member of this elephant family group,” said Katie Pilgram-Kloppe, zoological manager of River’s Edge.1 “She loved playing with her sisters Maliha and Priya. While growing up here in St Louis, she got to learn from her own mom, Ellie, on how to be an amazing mother herself. She had a great relationship with her animal care team and all of the other elephants. When socializing with her family she made a unique squeaking noise that her daughter Jade also mimics.”

“It’s been a privilege to get to know Rani from just a youngster when she moved here to then watch her become a mother and grow with the elephant family,” added River’s Edge keeper Becky added, She will be greatly missed.”

According to WWF,2 there are fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild with threats such as habitat loss and poaching.


  1. Asian elephant Rani has died. News release. Saint Louis Zoo. October 17, 2023. Updated October 18, 2023. Accessed October 20, 2023. https://stlzoo.org/news/asian-elephant-rani-has-died
  2. Asian elephant facts. WWF. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/asian-elephant
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