It is difficult to put into words how much African Elephant Cuddles meant to our Zoo keepers and to our entire team, let alone the impact she had on so many visitors to the Zoo over the past 40 years.
This week we received hundreds of tributes to Cuddles following the news of her passing, with people sharing on social media stories of when they met or saw Cuddles and what she meant to them. So many beautiful and happy memories have been shared, and knowing that Cuddles touched the lives of so many has made the burden of this very difficult week a bit lighter, as we all struggle to come to terms with her loss. Thank you to all those who have contacted us to extend condolences. We are touched and we too are sharing our memories of Cuddles and supporting each other at this sad time.
Cuddles was an exceptional ambassador for African Elephants and their plight in the wild, inspiring visitors with both her presence and her wonderful character. She was a gentle natured animal, who loved interaction with her keepers. She also enjoyed being the centre of attention and had perfected the art of getting extra treats from her keepers, such as her favourites, banana and lucerne. She was dearly loved amongst all who worked alongside her over the years.
We have so many memories of Cuddles that we will cherish forever. Here are some memories from our Elephant Keepers, who knew Cuddles best and had the privilege of working closely with her every day.
Cuddles was the first elephant that I worked with when I moved to the elephant section in 2007. As a trainee keeper, I was in awe of her size, intelligence and character. She was the perfect elephant for a trainee keeper, gentle in nature and happy to work with people. She taught me how to be an elephant keeper and gave me a career that I love. When I moved away to travel and work overseas, I came back to Dubbo after three years, walked into the barn, Cuddles looked at me sideways with one of her big brown eyes and we just picked up where we left off those years earlier. Over the years I have loved watching how visitors respond to all the elephants, but particularly Cuddles with her sweet personality, she was special. Usually the first elephant I saw in the mornings and always the last one I saw in the afternoons, the place just isn’t the same without her. Rebecca O’Riordan.
I consider it a privilege to have worked with Cuddles, not only due to her significance and stature within the zoo, but more so for her gentle nature and unique personality. You could not visit the zoo without feeling adoration for this special lady, she truly was one of a kind as a species ambassador as well as a loved member of our team. Lachlan McFeeters.
It was a great privilege to get to know Cuddles, work with and look after her, she was a great teacher and a gentle grand old lady. We will all miss her rumblings in the morning and her trademark wave goodbye. A working relationship with an elephant is something very unique and special, something that stays with you forever. Greig Tonkins.
Cuddles has been the only African elephant I have cared for in my career. She was an amazing, sweet natured elephant who loved attention and was friendly towards everyone. Her loss will not only be felt enormously by the team who were privileged to spend many hours each day with her but the also the entire Zoo and wider community. The barn will not be same without her and she definitely won’ t be forgotten by the countless number of people she touched and amazed during her time. Bradd Johnston, Senior Elephant Keeper.
Farewell Cuddles, we will miss you.
Anyone who would like to make a tribute in memory of Cuddles, and in support of all African Elephants, is asked to consider a donation to our partner in conservation, the Northern Rangelands Trust http://www.nrt-kenya.org/. Thank you.