Rotterdam zoo’s oldest elephant, Irma, dies at age 53
The oldest elephant at Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo in Rotterdam, named Irma, passed away at the age of 53, the zoo announced on Monday. Due to health concerns, the decision to euthanize her was made after discussions between the veterinarian and caregivers.
Irma was born in 1970 in Copenhagen and arrived in Rotterdam five years later. In 1984, she became the first elephant in a Dutch zoo to give birth. By 2014, Irma had become a great-grandmother. The elephant gave birth to six offspring, had 14 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Olifant Irma is op de respectabele leeftijd van 53 jaar overleden. Om welzijnsredenen is in goed overleg tussen de dierenarts en de verzorgers besloten dat het moment was aangebroken om haar in te laten slapen, een moeilijke maar weloverwogen beslissing. https://t.co/AZJ2POiuQP pic.twitter.com/F7CPEKopE9— Diergaarde Blijdorp (@RotterdamZoo) September 25, 2023
Irma's health had declined for years and worsened significantly in recent weeks. She lost considerable weight, became introverted, and was missing essential molars for grinding food. She also had joint issues and was on pain relief. According to the zoo, she was also increasingly trying to isolate herself from the herd.
“It was not an easy decision that we had to make together. Irma played an important social role in the Rotterdam elephant family and spawned an entire dynasty,” remarked elephant keeper Kasper Willebrandts. “We saw that it was becoming increasingly difficult for her, and there was no way out,” he added.
The body of the deceased elephant was collected from the zoo by a freight team on Monday before the zoo opened. The cadaver was then transported to Utrecht University for an autopsy.
Het lichaam van de overleden olifant Irma is vanmorgen voor openingstijd uit Diergaarde Blijdorp opgehaald door een vrachtwachten. Het kadaver is voor sectie vervoerd naar de Universiteit Utrecht. pic.twitter.com/LcBeDrQ79l— Joey Bremer (@010fotograaf) September 25, 2023
Diergaarde Blijdorp is now home to four elephants from Irma's family line. Her daughter Bangka is currently the leader of the herd. “After saying goodbye, the elephants returned to normal, but they too will probably have to get used to the fact that she is no longer there,” the zoo noted.