Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says goodbye to an elephant with a fighting spirit

May 14, 2023

MALAIKA, AFRICAN ELEPHANT, IS NOW AT REST – Malaika’s health struggles have been extensively chronicled and shared with the public, and in February 2022, we had braced ourselves and our community for the possibility that we may lose Malaika at that time. She had some very bad days late that month, but her fighting spirit allowed her to bounce back. Since then, her health has been up and down, but unfortunately, this was her time.

More than 10 years ago, the Zoo made a conscious decision to meet the demand for specialized staff and housing to care for aging female elephants. We built what could be called a retirement community for these “Golden Girls,” and with that decision, we knew we would have difficult days ahead, as we provide end-of-life care for these magnificent animals.

Malaika had been unable to stand up on her own twice previously, once in 2018 and again in 2019. She was able to survive those potentially fatal episodes with the help of her care team, specialized hoisting equipment and the support of the Colorado Springs Fire Department’s Heavy Rescue Team. All of those resources were in place again, but unfortunately, the outcome was one that we have anticipated and dreaded for a long time.

Despite her history of health challenges, Malaika had far more good days than bad ones in her life. Malaika was described by her keepers as one of the sassiest elephants in our herd, and she frequently carried logs, tires and puzzle feeders around her spaces. She often enjoyed having time to herself, but she would also socialize with Kimba and Lucky.

According to Malaika’s keepers, she was a one-of-a-kind elephant. She loved spending time with them. She always knew when a keeper had a new lotion on, and would investigate the new smell with her trunk until she was satisfied. She always entered a new space carrying one of her favorite tires, oftentimes trumpeting as to say “Here I am!” They say she loved being the center of attention. Malaika had a sweet and salty personality, much like her food preferences. Her favorites being jumbo marshmallows or salty pretzels. Malaika had a strong, trusting relationship with her keepers, and will be deeply missed by all of her human and elephant friends.

Although Malaika was the youngest elephant in our herd, she experienced more than her share of health struggles through the years. As with humans, sometimes age isn’t the most relevant factor in an individual’s health. Also in the herd is Missy, our oldest elephant and one of the oldest African elephants in human care, at nearly 54 years old. The remaining members of the herd, Kimba (45), Lucky (44), Jambo (40) and LouLou (40), all have some age-related health concerns, which are closely managed by their animal care and veterinary teams.

Malaika’s herdmates were given access to her shortly after her passing to help them process the loss.

We have been anticipating Malaika’s passing for some time, and we made arrangements in advance for a beautiful final resting place in the mountains for her, thanks to a generous donor who offered their land for this special purpose.

About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s mountain Zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. In 2023, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was voted #4 Best Zoo in North America and CMZoo’s Rocky Mountain Wild was named #2 Best Zoo Exhibit in North America by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s goal to help guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Since 2008, CMZoo’s Quarters for Conservation program has raised more than $4.5 million dedicated to frontline conservation efforts around the world. Of the 238 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just a few operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues, special event attendance and donations for funding.