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Performing Animal Welfare Society Announces Death of
African Elephant Maggie

Elephant was once the only one of her kind in Alaska

San Andreas, Calif. (August 5, 2021) – The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) today announced the death of African elephant Maggie at the ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, California. Maggie passed away on Tuesday beneath her favorite shady oak tree and near preferred mudholes in the sanctuary’s largest habitat, with PAWS’ staff on hand. Elephant friend Lulu was at her side, and Toka stood calmly with a caregiver nearby. According to the African Elephant Studbook, Maggie was 41 years old. Maggie lived with significant arthritis and dental disease for much of her life.

“Maggie enjoyed California’s sunny skies, the wide-open spaces of her habitat, and the company of other elephants for nearly 14 years at our sanctuary. She could often be found napping on a hillside, watched over by elephants Lulu and Toka,” said PAWS President Ed Stewart. “I am honored to have cared for Maggie and very proud of the keeper and veterinary care we provided for her throughout the years.”
Before coming to PAWS in November 2007, Maggie was the only elephant in Alaska, living at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. The first call after Maggie’s death was to Alaska Zoo Executive Director Pat Lampi, who stated: “We are all deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Maggie. She touched the lives of many Alaskans and people all over the world. I take comfort in knowing that the past 13 years she was in the loving care of our friends at PAWS and in the company of her close companion Lulu.”

Maggie was born in Zimbabwe, Africa, in 1980 and captured as a calf, likely as a result of an elephant cull. The Alaska Zoo acquired Maggie in 1983 and she spent the next 24 years there, the last 10 years of that time alone.

In 2007, the zoo decided to send Maggie to the PAWS sanctuary. Because no commercial airline option was available to move her, Maggie was flown by the U.S. Air Force aboard a C-17 Globemaster III from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Emmy Award-winning television game show host and animal advocate Bob Barker reimbursed the Air Force for the full cost of transport and funded Maggie’s care for a number of years.

Maggie lived with significant arthritis and dental disease for much of her life, and although these conditions were greatly helped by excellent care and the therapeutic setting of the sanctuary, they continued to worsen over time and contributed to her passing. In free-living elephants, a 41-year-old female would be in her prime, as African elephants can live to be 65 years old. In captive situations, elephants’ lives are frequently cut short by captivity-induced ailments such as premature arthritis and foot disease. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the median life expectancy for female African elephants in captivity is only 38.1 years.

“All of us at PAWS will miss this truly special and dear elephant,” said Stewart. “She was loved by the other elephants, PAWS' staff, and everyone who knew her or followed her compelling story, from Alaska to California and beyond.”

As is customary for all elephants who pass away at PAWS, a necropsy has been performed on Maggie’s remains by pathologists at U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

PAWS continues to care for seven elephants, including Lulu, who is the oldest African elephant in the United States. The sanctuary also rescues and cares for bears and big cats.

For more information about PAWS, please visit

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About the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
Founded in 1984, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) operates three sanctuaries in California – including the 2,300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary – and cares for elephants, bears, big cats and other wild animals rescued or retired from circuses, zoos, and the exotic pet trade.
PAWS is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. It is rated a four-star charity by Charity Navigator and received an “A” rating from CharityWatch.