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. David Young

    This article and her life will not help this cause but foot disease is the number one killer of elephants in captivity. It is a result of walking on cement and hard, packed dirt. Elephants need room to roam. This is not 1-10 acres...then need a lot more than this. Go to elephants . com and see what the truth is. Finally, she is out of the suffering life she had at this zoo.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Foot disease is a major factor in lifespan for elephants in captivity, I am sure she was properly manicured and cleaned regularly for her to have lived to the age of 71, I would think she was more than well taken care of.

      At the San Diego zoo you can see them attending to the feet of these regal giants on a daily basis, it is quite impressive the work that is done to keep foot disease from occuring. They dont seem to mind getting their feet cleaned.

      RIP Taj

      January 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. J

    Should have been at the Elephant Sanctuary in TN. http://www.elephants.com

    January 19, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      Exactly! I love watching the elephants on the "ele-cam". It's a great place where human visitors are NOT allowed, and the elephants can live as naturally as possible in captivity,

      January 19, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Carole Clarke

      I watch them too. Three at the fence today, all Asians. Wonder if Bella is still around for Tarra, she must be getting on.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stacell

    God bless your heart & your soul Ms. Taj : (

    January 19, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. BRod

    Shame she didn't get to live out her retirement at the elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, where she could have lived a life with other elephants on 2700 acres and very little human contact. Theme parks and zoos are no place for elephants.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Well keep donating your money to this wonderful place and maybe they can afford to care for many more elephants.

      January 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tommy

    I love elephants :(. RIP TAJ

    January 19, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe


    January 19, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lynn

    Bless you, baby. You'll be missed by many. I remember seeing your paintings and how moved I was.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Caroline

    Rest in peace old girl.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. jay chapman

    Everyone that thinks she should have been released into the wild....you are idiots. An animal can't just be released into the wild after living their lives in captivity. Let's drop you off in the woods and see how well you fare. Sure, a larger sanctuary would have been great...BUT that wasn't the case. Seems to me that although living in captivity, there was a great deal of love surronding this animal. Think before you speak....please.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. joy

    is mahal alive?

    January 19, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. jimbob

    So many of you hate on keeping the animal in cages rather than the wild yet we lose many more each day in the wild due to poachers and illegal operations. I myself am happy this animal was able to bless many humans with 71 years of learning and interacting. Understanding wild animals is tough however with proper care (as this girl was) we can get an insight on how to better protect the ones that are wild. While I agree that they need space and other animals they also need exercise so those "horrendous" games that she used to do in the circus such as stack logs and play tug of war are by no means abuse. May she rest in peace and bless Heaven with her presence!

    January 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ellgee209

    Such a majestic and beatiful animal. The world needs to make sure that these elephants are treated with kindness and love to assure their well being. That includes getting them out of circuses and sideshows. They are not meant to perform, but to live thier lives in their natural habitat in peace.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. landon kelsey

    something so beautiful must live on forever

    January 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jimmy Rigsby

    Pssh. They get that old by never growing tusks. I can do that.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. PhillyFan

    Her 'abstract creations'. Really? How about her scribblings were auctioned off? Abstract implies a deeper meaning / tone to the paintings. Now if she did a couple of portraits or landscapes and just liked the abstract style, that's fine but I doubt that was the case. Sorry to see her die I don't want to make fun of the loss of her but the 'abstract' adjective attached to her paintings just kind of made me laugh.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
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