Zookeepers and guests gathered this morning to celebrate the 50th birthday of Mai Thai, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s oldest and most recognized elephant. Mai Thai and the rest of the herd, including 47-year-old Schottzie, plowed through an elephant-sized cake and smashed all the decorations that took the Zoo’s volunteer enrichment committee weeks to make, so the party went pretty much as expected!
“The excellent health that our two geriatric female elephants enjoy is certainly a result of the excellent care they receive,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. “One of Mai Thai’s keepers does regular exercise sessions, similar to yoga stretches, with her to keep her flexible and minimize age-related aches and pains.”
When Mai Thai was younger and protocols for Zoo animals were much different than they are today, she marched on-stage for the Opera Aida and in the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parades and delivered the first pitch from the Reds pitching mound! Last year, the Reds made a bobblehead in her honor and MadTree Brewing dedicated a beer, called “Oh Mai”, to her.
Cincinnati Zoo’s elephant team has more than 100 years of combined experience caring for large, complex animals and is using this expertise, combined with data-driven research, to provide them with the best homes. The current elephant habitat was recently expanded and configured to allow more flexibility for the elephants to go out into their two yards day or night. They will have even more options, and five times more space, when they move to Elephant Trek next year.
“Elephant Trek will be the ultimate environment for elephants. With naturalistic trees, mud wallows, grasses, pools, streams, and other elements designed to give a multi-generational herd everything it needs to thrive,” said Maynard. “It will be big enough to hold eight or nine elephants, including space for some potential new baby elephants!”
Mai Thai is past her reproductive prime but would play a role in rearing any babies. Asian elephant adults typically work together to raise their young and to protect the group.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are only 40,000 Asian elephants in the wild today. They are an endangered species, and Cincinnati Zoo is committed to caring for them locally and globally. It participates in multiple conservation efforts to support the survival of this species in its native habitat.
What can you do?
- Purchase an elephant painting (painted by the birthday girl). Elephant painting funds support the International Elephant Foundation’s conservation efforts.
- Visit the Zoo! Ticket and membership revenue helps Cincinnati Zoo provide great care for the animals you visit and supports the care of their wild counterparts.
The Zoo opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Members get Early Entry and are welcome to enter the Zoo at 9 a.m. Today is the first day of Zoo Babies, sponsored by General Electric Credit Union. Come see the little ones and be sure to stop by Elephant Reserve to see the big ones too!