RIP, Elly

The country's oldest Eastern black rhino passed away at SF Zoo last week.

(Marianne Hale/SF Zoo)

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens announced the passing of a 46-year-old rhino on Tuesday, who was unique in that she was the most senior of her kind left in the United States. 

Elly the Eastern black rhino arrived at our city’s zoo on April 16, 1975 — a whopping 42 years ago. She singlehandedly helped to populate the country with other Eastern black rhinos, birthing 14 calves who subsequently had 15 babies themselves, who then produced six great-grand calves — and even a great-great-grand calf.

Props should be given to Elly’s zookeepers, who helped keep her fertile and healthy: Eastern black rhinos are heavily endangered. Though they once roamed many countries in Africa, nowadays they can only be found in Kenya, Rwanda, northern Tanzania, South Africa, and zoos. In the last three generations, the population of Eastern black rhinos has declined 90 percent. According to SF Zoo, it’s estimated there are only between 5,042 and 5,455 left in the wild. 

Elly’s end was luckily quite peaceful, and at 46-years-old, was mostly due to old age. Last Wednesday she was anesthetized so that the veterinary team could examine one of her legs. Unfortunately, the damage appeared to be too severe to preserve her quality of life, and “the difficult but humane decision was made not to wake Elly from her surgery.”

“As one of our longest-standing residents, Elly was an outstanding animal ambassador for the endangered black rhino species, which faces continued risk from poaching, mainly for its horn,” said Tanya M. Peterson, President of SF Zoo.  “We are grateful to have celebrated many wonderful years with Elly, and she will be dearly missed by the Zoo team as well as millions of guests who connected with and cared for her.”

If all this makes you shed a tear for Elly, cheer up — part of her legacy lives on locally. Boone the black rhino is one of her grand-calves, and you can stop by the Zoo seven days a week to pay him a visit. 



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