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. romos

    First, let's make one thing clear here, animals of any kind do not need humans to survive, we need them since we are so sick and tired of looking at humans all the time, no surprise there but, since we would like to domesticate just about anything so we have 'control' over something that needs no control is why we do it, seems to make us feel better somehow. However, once we have domesticated or captured an animal rather, it will be our responsibility to care for these animals to such a degree that the animal receives the best care there is, which half the time is not happening for a wild variety of reasons.

    The only help all animals need is from us is make sure other criminal humans do not capture, hurt, abuse or kill them for extemely selfish inhumane reasons but as we all know too well that is another dream that will likely never come true either. The rest is up to nature.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ThomasD

    I do understand that sometimes there isnt a choice. Yes, if there is NO chance that an animal would survive in the wild, then fine, care for it. Otherwise, I do not believe in zoos, circuses, or aquariums at all as i feel nearly all animals could be returned to thier natural habitat. I know that I would rather live a day in freedom than a lifetime in captivity.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dirk the Daring

    What a sweet creature. I hope you are in a better place.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ron St. Louis

    Roam forever in the green pastures of high grass Taj. May a warm sun and cool waters fill your days in a heaven made only for elephants to frolic and play.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Davey Jones

    Oh course, ALL animals live longer when they aren't kidnapped and imprisoned to do stupid tricks to entertain humans.

    January 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ST Peterphant

    I welcomed this elephant into the pearly gates of Heaven, she is now roaming the fields, and she now is trying to paint something, the other animals keep looking at her a little strange.

    January 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron St. Louis

      That's great! I am certain that even Piscaso was misunderstood during his life. Thanks for keeping it light – see you in 35 years.

      January 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Arthur

    Hey, at least the park was in California, and not Iowa. Those 71 years would have felt longer in Iowa...

    January 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mary


    January 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sandra LeVin

    Dear old elefriend, rest in peace sweet Taj.

    January 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sandy

    Sorry D Jones hate to pop your bubble but most animals live longer in captivity , medical care , good food, no predators, etc

    January 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. rivirivi

    I loved this elephant. Rest in peace and PLAY IN HEAVEN FOREVER!

    January 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alex

    rest in peace beautiful elephant

    January 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Burbank

    I remember Circus Vargas, my best friend from high school was a minor acrobat with them for 3 years back in the seventies so that would be contemporary with this elephant. I must have seen this same elephant perform back in the day. May she have a very happy afterlife.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. capnmike

    People criticizing having this, or any, animal in captivity, know NOTHING about an animal's life in the wild. It's usually short, brutal, filled with fear, always hungry thirsty or both, and ends by being killed by some other animal who starts eating it while it's still alive...or suffering from some untreated disease. Almost NEVER does any animal survive to old age in the wild.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amy

    I'd rather live 30 years of freedom than 71 years in captivity. Human or animal. And, I'd like to find one person on this board that disagreees with me.
    Poor thing was "trained" to play tug of war and in later years paint. Ugh! We humans need to give animals their dignity and when in captivity, at least allow them to live their life as animals and not as entertainment.
    It's a shame poor Taj couldn't have lived out his later years at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tenn. (Great organization btw).

    January 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
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