World’s oldest captive elephant dies

Ruaha has died at Basel Zoo at the age of 59, which made her the world’s oldest African elephant in captivity, the zoo announced on Thursday.

This content was published on July 29, 2010 - 13:36

She was delivered to the zoo in 1952 along with four other young elephants. Ruaha was believed to be one year old at the time.

A member of the zoo staff found her dead in the elephant enclosure on Thursday morning. The zoo said she probably died of old age, but will investigate the actual cause of death.

Ruaha, named after a plain in Tanzania, was captured by Ernst Lang, the zoo’s veterinarian at the time who would later become its director. The animal was transported to Switzerland by boat and train.

The zoo said what was initially a shy animal developed into the undisputed leader of the herd. Her ability to control the group enabled the zoo to move the elephants to a free-range enclosure in the 1990s.

The five remaining members of Basel’s elephant herd paid their last respects to Ruaha. They gathered around her, and stroked her with their trunks, the zoo said.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?