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.