Oldest elephant in N. America dies at 71
Taj, an Asian elephant who could paint on canvas, lived at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California, for 33 years.
January 19th, 2011
09:25 AM ET

Oldest elephant in N. America dies at 71

Taj, an Asian elephant who could hold a paintbrush to create art on canvas, has died at age 71, her keepers announced.

"As the oldest elephant in North America, we mourn the loss of this gentle soul who touched millions, but we also celebrate an extraordinary life," Six Flags Discovery Kingdom theme park in Vallejo, California, posted Tuesday on its Facebook page.

Taj far exceeded the average life expectancy of 44.8 years for her species, park spokeswoman Nancy Chan told the San Jose Mercury News.

Taj lived at the park for 33 years. Before her retirement three years go, the former Circus Vargas performer entertained crowds by stacking logs and playing tug of war with visitors, according to the Mercury News.

Late in life she learned how to paint. Her abstract creations were auctioned for charity, The Daily Mail reported.

The park's senior elephant trainer, Nick Way, told the local newspaper the Times-Herald that Taj "is the kind of unique soul you hope to be lucky enough to encounter once in your lifetime."

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Filed under: Animals • California • Elephants • U.S.
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    Guess the elephant's paintings are worth $more now-sad but maybe true.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Metropl

      I wept when I found this artist will create no more. Which is sadder... that we mourn the loss of this artist or that we care nothing of the thousands of humans that died today. We are a very confused species.

      January 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. amélie Zaccara

    pauvre élépenant 🙁

    January 19, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • am

      pauvre éléphant :(:(

      January 19, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. Helen Bryant

    Rest in peace, Taj. There is something so regal and ageless about elephants. I collect elephant figuerines and adore wildlife stories that feature them. I pray she will enjoy heaven because what would it be without animals. They are great teachers and companions.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Thank you Helen for your compassion. I live on the grounds of our wildlife rehabilitation facility and can see first hand how all animals have lives deeper and richer than most can imagine. While never having an elephant (we take native species only) I admire them too. No doubt God has made a place for animals in heaven. Read the beautiful promise of Hosea 2:18, "In that day I will make a covenant for them (my people) with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety."

      January 19, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      To RetUSAMike,

      Did you not read the part about "rehabilitation"? These animals cannot survive in the wild on their own. These facilities give these animals another chance at life and yes, sometimes they can be returned to the wild.

      January 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey weedon

      Elephant Heaven?
      Come on don't be a nut bag...

      January 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonah

      Mickey – it's not "elephant heaven", it's just heaven. One for ALL creatures.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • RetUSAMike

      Miss Karen, wild animals in captivity, regardless, were put there by humans, also considered animals. Their own personal wild environment plays a tremendous factor in their life or death. Just as we choose our personal civilized environment. Captivity of the elephant, and other wild animals are my posts. Humans are weak, allowing the animals to depend upon certan humans to choose their personal captive environments. The human wants the animals to be like them. The shame lies with humans; zoo's, etc, etc, etc. You knew exactly what my point is, please try not to digress the subject.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      @ RetUSAMike – If your point is to not let humans impact animals in any way then please figure out a way to stop cars from killing deer so that their fawns won't starve to death or for animals to be injured in traps or caught in fences or whatever other reasons we have a negative impact on them. Another advantage to rehabilitating them is to enlighten visitors to these facilities as to how our way of life impacts the animal kingdom. Once again, are you a vegan?

      January 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • RetUSAMike

      Miss Helen, Linda and Karen,

      I find it very refreshing when a human, who is playing with a killer whale in captivity, is no longer on this earth. Drove to the bottom of the pool, and stays there to drown. White tiger mauling an entertainer on stage a couple of years ago? Remember? Refreshing. Etc, etc, etc. You support captivity of wild animals, you go. I disagree. Keep them free.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      @ RetUSAMike. Still waiting to hear if you're vegan. Also, what do you really think they should do with animals that can't be returned to the wild as they either no longer possess survival skills or have been injured? There seems to be some disconnect somewhere as you refuse to accept the fact that we aren't supporting the taking of healthy animals out of the wild.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Eliseo

    Whats even sadder is that it lived its life in freaking captivity.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      She did live to be really old though. Maybe she liked where she lived.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Athla

      At least she was in a park being cared for, and not tied to a tree with rocks being thrown at her, like Murdoc.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • gottahandittohim

      "the wild" is not so blissful. I remember seeing a seal being released into the wild once and she kept coming back and getting into the cage. It's brutal out there. Getting a wash down and evernight after being fed and watered all you need is a pretty good life. My guess is she lived as long as she did because she was in captivity.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      Yes, this is true, but she had the care and love of the great people that dedicate their time to take care of these animals in captivity. She lived a longer life being in captivity.

      May God Bless you Taj, say hello to my departed friends in heaven. I miss them very much!

      January 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • RetUSAMike

      Miss Janet, are you implying you should be in captivity to live a longer life? Or are you trying to amuse me.

      January 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Again to RetUSAMike,

      Did you think that once the circus was done with her she would have even survived in the wild? While no animal should be ripped from the wild for entertainment purposes, there are times when it's necessary in order to keep the species from going extinct or to save the life of an individual animal. Should I assume since you're so compassionate about animals that you're a vegan?

      January 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • capnmike

      Consider the life of an animal In the Wild...short, brutal, constantly hungry, fearful, and ending in being killed and usually eaten while still alive by some other asnimal. Almost NEVER does any animal in the wild live long enough to die of old age.

      January 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      To those who say that it was sad he lived his life in captivity, I say – watch Wild Kingdom on Animal Planet. Its a brutal world! After just seeing one episode I vowed never to watch it again (far too sad), and have a new respect for reservations and zoos.

      January 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mary

    RIP Taj!

    January 19, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. K.D.R.

    All the animals at this Six Flags facility are there because they would not survive on their own in the wild for various reasons. We met this lovely animal and I can attest that she was well taken care of.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      That's no excuse to house an animal improperly. Elephants need other elephants, LESS people, and as much land to roam equal in size to that whole Six Flags park! I'm sure her keepers were well-intentioned, but humans have committed the worst atrocities with the best intentions.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Petr Jandacek

    Perhaps TAJ could be an organ donor and teach us about elephant tissue compatibility. There is at least one case on record of a HYBRID between an Asian & African Elephant. These 2 are not merely 2 species BUT 2 GENERA. Perhaps the synthesis of the 2 genera can be instrumental in including the GENUS of MAMMOTH to be brought forth through a cloning. The last mammoths survived till 4,000 years ago as dwarf mammoths on Wrangel Island. This is more recent DNA than the Siberian or Alaskan. These things are coming together from distant points to a synthesis of greater knowledge about Elephants.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Carole Clarke

      Interesting thought Petr – they've done it with lions and tigers = ligers. I log on to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee where 16 elephants roam on alot of acres. All but 2 are Asian and they don't have anything to do with the few African elephants there. I wonder if there is a different "language" that separates the two types? Life in the wild is short and brutal. Not only from Nature but from man poaching. Same for gorillas. Safe tho boring in zoos. Now they want to build a road smack thru the Serengeti to get ore out to sell. Understandable but horrifying. People are allowed to move into parks because people are deemed more worthy than critters. Different view. We were the same with the buffalo. Progress is finding a way to have jobs and wilderness. Africa is way behind us but catching up due to globalization.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ravensun

      Ligers, and their counterpart, Tigons, are genetically flawed. Don't mess with it with elephants.

      January 20, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. LC B

    The video "Echo" that I just watched (borrowed from our local library) stated that the average life span for the elephant in it's natural habitat is in the 60 year range . . . perhaps this marvelous animal survived longer than average, due to cohabiting with human caregivers/providers in a lifestyle which some define as and consider "captivity".

    January 19, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Free Willy

      From circus to zoo is not a happy life for an elephant. Keepers care is not a replacement for freedom. Taj wore chains the majority of her life.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. KDXButterfly

    Rest in peace, Taj. It is sad that you spent your life on display away from your natural element, but at least you died surrounded by love and affection.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Janet


      January 19, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      Yes, rest in peace Beloved Elephant! May heaven opened her gates wide to you !!! You are and will always be a treasure.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. kitta

    Animals should be rehabilitated and released to the wild. Too bad this elephant was used for "Stupid Pet Tricks' instead of living out his life in the wild. Elephant families are a very close knit groups and stay together learning how to survive through their matriarch. If the matriarch dies or is killed, or taken from the herd, it puts the entire family in jeopardy of surviving.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lisa

    I love Elephants. I heard they mate for life.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      My wife should take a few notes from Elephants

      January 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carole Clarke

      Elephants do not mate for life, the males are pushed out of the herd and a dominant female runs the herd and babies are brought up within that construct. When females come into season the males will mate with them then leave, forming small bachelor pods not that far away. Geese and swans do mate for life but not ducks – odd that. But Nature knows what she is doing.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dannon

    I have actually heard of this painting elephant. Well what a cool life. A pretty good gig, nice leasure time, long life.... nothing to be sad about. They should have a party and painting day at six flags... and considering that, thats owned by a beer company, they could have a pretty good party.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. bes

    Oh yummy a retirement home with a rollercoaster, your leg in chains and forced to "paint for charity"? Where can I sign up my mother in law?

    January 19, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. Devin

    Elephants are amazing creatures and I'd hate to see this one go to waste. Elephant burgers in the zoo cafeteria!

    January 19, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kat

    Taj can now freely roam wherever she wants. May your journey be peaceful beautiful one.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
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