"Summer of Siri": Rosamond Gifford Zoo Celebrates Elephant Herd Matriarch's 50th Birthday

Jun 6, 2017

County Executive Joanie Mahoney and Friends of the Zoo President Janet Agostini pour the first pennies into the special piggy bank in support of Asian elephant preservation in the wild.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is preparing to celebrate the birthday of one of its oldest…and largest residents.

"This summer marks a milestone for one of the most beloved family members at the zoo.  Siri, the matriarch of our elephant herd, will turn 50 years old this year.”                                             

Zoo Director Ted Fox says Siri was first brought to the zoo in 1972 when she was 5, and is still one of the zoo’s biggest attractions.   He says the 9,000 pound pachyderm has thrilled generations of visitors.

"It's so exciting to see  days like today with all the little kids from the school groups coming to see...even grandparents knew Siri when they were younger, and remember coming with their children or their parents.  It’s just a great circle.”                                   

Fox says Siri is one of few animals who has witnessed the zoo’s many changes.  After years of difficulty, the county took control of the zoo in 1979 and set in motion its transformation into the 1980’s. When the zoo considered whether to begin sending other members of the herd to other zoos in 2009, Fox says Siri inspired a new breeding program.  Now the elephants enjoy a 5-acre enclosure with watering holes and other amenities.

Mahoney reads from the proclamation honoring Siri. Behind her is zoo director Ted Fox.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

“It's really exciting that an animal has been through so many transformations.  Each step of the way, whenever there was conversation within the community, the county, or the friends society, about what we're going to do and how we're going to do it, Siri was always part of that conversation.”             

Fox says Siri is doing well for her age. 

"Certainly Siri experiences a little arthritis like any older animal does.  We've implemented so many exercise routines.  One is yoga, which improves her range of motion, and has been extremely successful.  We've been written up in a few zoo magazines for that and these geriatric elephants."

The zoo is declaring “the summer of Siri” to celebrate her birthday and kick off a fundraising initiative. Friends of the Zoo president Janet Agostini hopes the zoo community will raise two thousand dollars in pennies, which will be matched by the Friends of the Zoo.  

Elephant keepers toss in rolls of pennies.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

“It's called pennies for pachyderms.   We'd like to heave everyone drag out those pennies you've been saving in some jar in your closet to donate your pennies in the special piggy bank we have here in Siri’s honor.”                                     

Agostini joined County executive Joanie Mahoney and the elephant keepers to begin filling the bank with pennies.  The money will be donated to conservation efforts for the wild Asian Elephant population abroad.  Ted Fox says the population is now around 35,000, much lower than in previous years. It continues to dwindle as the species fights disease.

More information about the celebration and fundraiser is at rosamondgiffordzoo.org.