Posted on 12th February 2021 by Media Relations
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is mourning the loss of much-loved Asian Elephant Burma, one of the oldest Asian Elephants in Australia.
Burma, aged in her early 60s, was a well-known resident of Taronga having lived at both Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo and Taronga Zoo Sydney in her lifetime. Burma lived at Taronga Zoo Sydney for 25 years with her partner Heman before the pair moved to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 2005, the Zoo’s very first Asian Elephants.
Burma was described by her keepers as having a distinct personality which made her very unique. She was the first elephant that the Zoo’s trainee keepers worked with. Many of the trainee keepers developed a real soft spot for her through this initial training. Burma was a hard-working elephant and knew her routine inside out, so she would basically teach the keepers.
During her years in Dubbo Burma witnessed the arrival of more elephants to the Zoo, including two mothers and their calves in 2015 from Taronga Zoo. She developed a soft spot for young male Luk Chai and the Zoo’s first elephant calf, Sabai, and enjoyed interacting with them when in a neighbouring paddock.
Although it is very sad that Burma is no longer with us and that our keepers will all miss her, she lived a long life and the team have reflected on how lucky they were to have been able to work alongside her here in Dubbo over the past 16 years.
Burma was a great ambassador for her species and she will be missed by the wider Taronga Western Plains Zoo team. Some of her keepers have shared their memories of working with Burma and why she was so special to them.
Describing Burma... well it’s a kind of tricky one. On one hand, she wasn’t a cuddly smoochy elephant, but on the other hand, she had a strangely lovable personality.
Burma was a hard worker, enjoyed having a throw of the football, doing a blow painting or showing off her signature “kneel” move.
Although Burma didn’t often seek out human affection, she enjoyed hanging out with her old mate Gigi, where they would endlessly sand bathe together, or popping her trunk and squeaking away to Gigi, or exchanging trunk grabs under the fence with young bulls Luk Chai and Sabai.
You could often find Burma enjoying a casual dip in the pool when it rained or if the pool was freshly cleaned. She also loved a big drink from the warm water hose in winter, standing there with the hose hanging from the side of her mouth, eyes closed, enjoying drinking as much water as possible.
Burma, you were complex in your personality, but you were dearly loved by your keepers who got to know you well, and will be missed terribly.
Burma was one of the first Elephants I worked with when I started as a trainee elephant keeper. She has helped to teach and shape me in to the keeper I am today. Burma was highly intelligent and loved to learn new things, however she lost patience easily and hated being asked to do something that she considered to be already done. In recent years she definitely mellowed out and was one of the most consistent elephants we had here, she would always do her bath and loved to get her pellets and mash at the end. Nothing pleased her more than a special treat of some extra pellets or sweet potato.
Burma was a beautiful elephant, with lots of pink colouring on her face, ears and trunk and a pretty face. Whilst Burma was not an affectionate elephant, she had plenty of spunk and she has played an important role in the lives of the keepers that have worked her and she will be greatly missed here on the elephant team. She is the last of the geriatric elephants that we have had here in Dubbo over the past 15 years and marks the end of an era for our zoo. Vale Burma, thank you for everything you gave to us, rest in peace grand lady.
You are the last of the ‘old girls’ and a big loss to our elephant family (both elephants and people). I will miss walking into the top barn and saying good morning to you and sharing those little moments like giving you a handful of jam straight from the container.
You are the toughest elephant I have known, so smart and such a dedicated hard worker. I loved your feisty attitude and whilst trying not to attribute human emotions, you did seem to have a wicked sense of humour!
You eventually let down your guard and had soft spot for Gigi, waiting outside the barn for her so you could have a sand bath then walk out to the paddock together. The way you two would chat and squeak was adorable!
So many memorable moments; you will be greatly missed and never forgotten.
Forever my favourite, Keeper Dee.
Burma's contribution to elephant conservation can never really be calculated. For over 60 years she has been an ambassador for her species, inspiring people across Australia when they have had an opportunity to visit her first-hand. For many children she would often be the first time they had encountered an elephant, and I have lost count the number of times that as adults, visitors have relayed their childhood experiences of meeting Burma and the impact that it had. I will miss Burma and her beautiful pink mottled face. She is a tremendous loss to our herd and will be missed dearly by her keeping staff and many others that she has touched in her lifetime.
I have been fortunate enough to have worked with Burma for just over 10 years, and whilst all elephants are special to work with, especially the grand old ladies, it was no secret that she was my favourite. She always kept us on our toes, the second you relaxed or became overconfident, Burma was there to keep you humble! You had to work long and hard to gain her trust and respect for a good working relationship to form, there was certainly no shortcuts with her, and she was an excellent teacher!
Whilst Burma wasn't affectionate, she had a very high work ethic and loved to learn new behaviours and activities. Burma also possessed a wicked sense of humour, and she had softened in her old age somewhat, enjoying interacting with the young elephants and the big bull Gung especially. Burma is the end of an era for us here at Dubbo, as the last of our elderly elephants and her vocalising and trunk popping will be missed especially, the top barn certainly won't be the same.
Thanks for all the fun times old girl, and the life lessons you taught me. Rest easy, this week was certainly one of the toughest of my career and we will all miss you lots!