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

Malaika, African elephant, is now at rest
After a long struggle with mobility issues and chronic illness, Malaika, a 37-year-old African elephant, has given up her fight. Overnight on Friday, she went down and was unable to get back up on her own. A group of trained staff and members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department Heavy Rescue Team responded to the emergency. Despite successfully lifting her with a specialized overhead lift, she was still unable to stand. She was humanely euthanized mid-day on Saturday.

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.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo |