Missy, CMZoo African Elephant Turns 50

June 27, 2019


Turning fifty years old is a big deal for anyone. When an elephant turns fifty, it’s an enormous occasion. Missy, one of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s female African elephants, is half a century old this year, and Children’s Hospital Colorado is partnering with CMZoo to make it a momentous celebration fit for a true golden girl. Staff from Children’s Hospital Colorado will have a booth at the event, and encourage guests to stop by to say hello and enjoy some party favors.

Missy, who moved to CMZoo from Lee Richardson Zoo in 2015, is one of the oldest African elephants in the country. But, according to Senior Lead Elephant Keeper, Ilana Cobban, that doesn’t slow her down.

“She’s always the first one out of the barn and into the main yard every morning,” Cobban said. “Missy’s personality is, in my opinion, like one of “The Golden Girls” characters. She does what she wants, when she wants and isn’t afraid to demand what she needs or wants.”

Cobban says that during training, Missy will sometimes misread her trainer’s request and will launch into a training routine because she’s so eager to participate.

“If she sees you move her ‘target stick,’ which we use for training, she might think it’s time to do yoga and will start offering those behaviors right away,” Cobban said. “It usually happens in the demo yard, and guests think it’s hilarious. Once we can get Missy’s attention to convey the behavior we’re actually asking her to do, she looks at you like she’s thinking, ‘Why would I not do my yoga routine right now?’”

Although blind in her left eye, Missy is in remarkably good health for her age, Cobban said.

“She’s old, but she’s in such good health,” said Cobban. “We have to train a little differently with her when we’re on her left side, but it really doesn’t impact her. She’s smart, and she’s fast. Don’t get in her way.”
Missy the African elephant swimming in pool
When keepers call Missy’s name to shift to another part of the elephant exhibit, she doesn’t waste a moment. She does her signature ‘power walk’ on the most direct route to where she’s going – no matter what (or who) is in the way.

While younger members of the CMZoo African elephant herd may take 45 minutes to walk the quarter-mile elephant trek at the Zoo, Missy often finishes in ten minutes. While she’s patient, she seems to enjoy quickly embracing what’s next.

“Usually, during elephant feedings, we ask the elephant to ‘rest’ between each piece of produce a guest is feeding them,” said Cobban. “When they ‘rest,’ they relax their trunks on the ground. With Missy, we just stopped asking her because she never wanted to rest. She would gently take the item from the guest’s hand with her trunk, pop it in her mouth, and immediately reach her trunk out for the next piece. She doesn’t get impatient waiting for the next piece; she just doesn’t want to rest.”

Guests will have the chance to see Missy in action at her 50th birthday party, presented by Children’s Hospital Colorado, on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

The party starts at 10 a.m. in Encounter Africa and ends at noon. Guests can enjoy watching Missy and her best friend, LouLou, participating in some special birthday enrichment activities, then have the chance to feed Missy at 11 a.m. and see Missy dive into an elephant-sized birthday cake, made with her favorite snacks, at 11:30 a.m.

(Subject to Missy’s choice to participate or not)

10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Write a “Message to Missy,” take a free photo with elephant-themed props at our photo booth, and learn about African elephants from our CMZoo Docents with elephant biofacts.

10:10 a.m.
Missy and her best friend, LouLou, have the opportunity to enjoy special birthday enrichment activities in the main elephant yard.

10:45 a.m.
Keepers Caring for Elephants Demonstration

11 to 11:30 a.m.
Elephant Feeding Opportunities with Missy ($10 to $15 per feeding)

11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Join us in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Missy, as she enjoys an elephant-sized birthday cake, made with her favorite snacks.

For more information about Missy’s 50th Birthday Party, visit our Facebook Event Page

Missy is the eldest of the six female African elephants who live at CMZoo. She’s often in the yard with LouLou, who is 37 and came to CMZoo from Lee Richardson Zoo with Missy. Kimba, 41, is the largest of the group, weighing in at just over 8,500 pounds. Lucky, 39, sometimes shares space with Kimba. She is playful and can often be seen splashing around in the water in their main yard. Jambo, 36, and Malaika, 33, are known as the sassiest and prefer to spend solo time in one of their many spaces at the Zoo. Guests can visit the African elephant herd any day of the year, in Encounter Africa at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.