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Foundation News

Topeka Zoo's Conservation Conversation

Chris Rico

Topeka Zoo's September Conservation Conversation featured Asian Elephant Support as presented by President Linda Reifschneider.

Asian Elephant Support is fortunate to have Topeka Zoo as a partner that is mutually concerned about Asian elephants regarding their care today and the future of the species tomorrow.  September 13th was the second time Linda has spoken at a Topeka Zoo Conservation Conversation evening.  She has visited the zoo several times in the past few years and considers keepers and staff good friends and, of course, always spends some time with the elephants.


The 12th, while preparing to drive to Topeka, Linda learned that Topeka Zoo had to say goodbye to Sunda that morning.  Sunda was 58, and had been experiencing age-related health issues.  That Monday when she woke, she wasn’t able to get up by herself and the fire department brought in a crane that was able to help her back on her feet.  Linda understood her health was failing but you always want to think, “I want to see her one more time” and never, “It will be too late…”.

All of us at AES offer our sincere condolences to the keepers, staff, volunteers/docents, and Topeka’s public.  Sunda came to Topeka when she was 6-years-old and lived her entire life there. Ten years after her arrival, African elephant Tembo arrived and those two lived together for 42 years.  Being able to view an Asian and African elephant together is such a wonderful educational opportunity: yes, both are elephants and so much the same, and yet so different.  Tembo, African, and Cora, Asian, will continue to offer their visitors this same educational opportunity, but there will be a void in the yard, and Tembo and Cora are having to work their way through Sunda’s passing just as her two-legged family is doing.

And so, in spite of such circumstances, Topeka Zoo and the Topeka Zoo community welcomed Linda warmly. We shared a moment focused on Sunda, and then had our conservation conversation: discussing the many challenges facing Asian elephants as they make their perilous trek to the next century, as well as the ways AES both alone and in collaboration with other nonprofits are hoping to smooth out some of the bumps, and thus enable the Big Ones to make that journey successfully.

Linda with Dennis and Wrylie

Linda with Dennis and Wrylie

Thank you Dennis, Wrylie, docents and volunteers for making Linda’s visit a good one, even though all our hearts were very heavy.  And to Kim, Elise, Joe, Robyn – thank you for all you do for all Topeka’s elephants.  May the joy of your memories of Sunda ease the sorrow of her passing; know that your dedication to all elephants will only grow because of knowing her.

A couple of Topeka Zoo volunteers

A couple of Topeka Zoo volunteers