Dulary, or “loved one,” came to the Philadelphia Zoo from Thailand in 1964 when she was just a year old.
The elephant familiar to generations of zoo visitors died Monday at the age of 50 at a sanctuary in Tennessee.
Connie Raffa, who first saw Dulary on a school trip to the zoo in the mid-1960s, said she still loves elephants.
“You didn’t get to see an elephant in your neighborhood, you had to go to the zoo to see them,” Raffa said. “They’re huge … when you’re little, they even look bigger. They were just very huge and very peaceful to me and very docile.”
Dulary was self-confident, talkative, playful, and loved the water, said Andrew Baker, the zoo’s chief operating officer. Generations of Philadelphians still have memories of her.
“She was an elephant that impressed everybody that worked with her. Both people here at the zoo, visitors or her caretakers or staff at the elephant sanctuary developed really strong relationships with her,” said Baker.
“Elephants are so iconic. With her being here from 1964, she was part of generations of zoo-goers’ experience,” he added.
Things began to change shortly when the zoo was unable to fund an expansion of its elephant habitat. And then Dulary was involved in an altercation with another elephant.
“Dulary was very much a dominant elephant,” said Marianne Bessey, founder of the Friends of the Philadelphia Zoo. “I’m sure part of the altercation she was involved in was her standing her ground, refusing to move.”
Bessey said Dulary was confined to a quarter acre of space and a small barn.
In 2007, Dulary was transported more than 900 miles to a sanctuary in Tennessee where visitors are not allowed. In her new home, she roamed free with other elephants.
“At the sanctuary, she had the best life that captivity has to offer,” Bessey said. “She was very, very happy there. You can see videos of her swimming, playing with her friend Misty. Overall, her health was very good there.”
“The sanctuary’s elephant care and vet staff administered a treatment plan that included multiple medications and even an elephant ‘corset’ crafted especially for Dulary out of burlap coffee bags. Soon she was feeling much better, and we happily celebrated her 50th birthday in May,” the Elephant Sanctuary said.
When her health again deteriorated, “sanctuary staff provided round the clock monitoring throughout the night. Dulary passed away peacefully on Monday morning, surrounded by those who loved her. Sanctuary staff then left the area and Dulary’s companions, including her best friend Misty, were allowed in to be with her,” the sanctuary’s statement said.
Dulary will be buried next week.
This story has been updated with a correction.