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Ambika (1948-2020)

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by AmbikaFan, 28 Mar 2020.

  1. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    The Smithsonian NZP's Asian elephant Ambika was euthanized yesterday at 72. She was the third-oldest elephant in North America. Ambika came to the zoo from India in 1961, the same year I came into this world. Many might not know that she went on a tour around the US before finally settling in or that she was thought to be pregnant before she left India. Her name means "gift from heaven," and she's been just that to four generations lucky enough to have spent time with her, growing older together. Today is the first day of my life without Ambika in it.

    Here are a few articles with interesting pictures and anecdotes. I had envisioned writing a beautiful eulogy for her, but I can't. I couldn't express just how much she filled my heart.

    I'm hoping ZooChatters can use this thread to add their memories of Ambika or pictures to memorialize her. I'll add some later. Please share!

    Elderly Asian Elephant Ambika Dies at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

    Ambika: Golden Girl or Energizer Bunny?

    A Trunk Full of Memories - National Zoo| FONZ

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/arch...hayspan/8d82f802-e49e-45dc-9c56-9686899c170e/
     
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  2. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    I spent a lot of time watching Ambika on the zoo's webcams, as well as seeing her in person at the zoo. I was proud of how well she was cared for at the zoo, and could tell that the staff loved her as if she was a family member. It is a sad day to hear this news, but I know she will not be forgotten at the zoo.

    The last few times I got to see her on the webcam, she had ups and downs. I was optimistic that she'd make it into the summer, but it's easy to see why they made the decision when they did. The zoo's comments on her late behaviors were entirely accurate. Despite her social withdrawal, she did perk up every once in a while for a bit. One of my last memories seeing her will be her walking up to the yellow gate and letting Spike rub her back with his trunk, probably searching for food. It was neat to see them interact together.

    Ambika seemed very happy in her last week, when she chose to be active. I'm happy that she went out while she was still able to have enjoyable moments in her life. I think the zoo did a great job allowing her to have them, because they really did maximize the quality of her life. I will enjoy my memories of her interacting with both Bozie and Shanthi, all the while enjoying a nice meal.
     
  3. Zoofan15

    Zoofan15 Well-Known Member

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    She will be missed by many, not least you @AmbikaFan; but what a great life she’s had. Many would have been inspired by meeting this majestic animal.

    To date no elephant in Australasia has reached her impressive age; though with a young population, and advances in vet care, this is an age hopefully many can aspire to.
     
  4. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    She was such a mischievous soul, so funny. Because my daughter was set on being an elephant keeper, I used to take her out of school for a day several times a year so that we could hang out with the keepers and Shanthi and Ambika for hours, alone, watching, asking any questions we wanted. One day Maria Galloway, Elephant Manager, thought she'd show us how smart Ambika was by playing a version of the three covers, under which is an apple, and once you move them around very quickly, can an onlooker figure out under which cover the apple is? Well! Ambika walked right up and took all three covers off, held up the apple and gave it to Marie. "See how she got us? I never told her not to cheat! So she did!"
     
  5. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    upload_2020-3-28_16-56-20.png
    Mr. Rogers and Ambika, by Terry Arthur, July 1982 issue of The Torch (The Smithsonian's internal newspaper, The Torch is a great source for information on Smithsonian events and staff), Record Unit 371, Box 4, Smithsonian Institution Archives
     
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  6. NOVAElephantEnthusiast

    NOVAElephantEnthusiast Member

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    Classic Ambika Lean.jpg

    One of my many pictures of the classic Ambika trunk lean
     
  7. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    A video from 2017 about what it's like to work with Ambika:
    The 1982 episode of Mr. Rogers that she briefly appeared in:

    Ambika in India:

    Ambika in India.jpg

    Coming to the USA:

    Ambika arrival 1.jpg

    About her arrival:

    Ambika leaving India.jpg

    Some photos of her and Shanthi from 1973:

    Ambika Shanthi 1973 1.jpg
    Ambika Shanthi 1973 2.jpg
    Ambika Shanthi 1973 3.jpg
    Ambika Shanthi 1973 4.jpg

    Ambika and Shanthi meeting Nancy in 1988:
    Nancy meeting Ambika and Shanthi 1988.jpg
     
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  8. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure who the Asian is here with Nancy, I'm not nearly as good as you guys are at telling them apart, but I think it's Ambika? Some time in the 1980s or early 90s. Undated, Nancy and Asian.jpg
     
  9. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much, TinoPup, for finding all of these wonderful momentos of Ambika's history. It's a bit confusing, but there was a bit of change in 1975. The zoo had a different Asian elephant named Shanti (notice no "h") until 1975 when she died and a male African elephant named Dzinga whose behavior became problematic, who was sent to a circus. Very shortly thereafter, Sri Lanka gifted a young calf whose parents had been killed by poachers to President Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy, on behalf of the children of America in honor of the American BiCentennial. She was named Shanthi. As a result, in a very short span, NZP went from having Dzinga, African Nancy, Ambika, and Shanti to, in April of 1977, Ambika, Nancy, and 1.5-year-old baby Shanthi. As a result the shorter, squatter elephant with Ambika in the four early 1970s pictures are the first Shanti who died, whiI the final shot with Nancy is Shanthi about 15 years old, right before she left for a 1.5-year breeding stay in Syracuse, NY to conceive Kumari. Shanthi has the height and steel gray coloring that Sri Lankans can (like Kandula and Swarna) have, and the elephant here with Nancy does not have Ambika's extremely long trunk or prominent domes and also has a more rounded spine than Ambika. The 1988 picture does indeed show Ambika, Shanthi (at 12), and Nancy, but it seems improbable that they would all just be meeting after being at the zoo as a threesome for 11 years and even longer for Ambika and Nancy. What I think is happening here in 1888 may be some test pairings to help integrate nervous and tentative new resident Toni from the Nay Aug Zoo in Scranton.
     
  10. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I didn't know about the other Shanti! I'd forgotten about the Jimmy Carter photos with baby Shanthi(you'd think I would remember, since I sent them to you, LOL). I was hoping I'd finally got an ID right, wrong once again :) At least I can tell Nancy from the Asians!
     
  11. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    No worries--you're doing the most important part by finding these gems! Wasn't Ambika just beautiful in these pictures? And there's a bit of.an optical illusion that makes it look like Ambika. When you look at just the back, it seems to have that flat spine with the curve that almost seems as if it is recessed between the shoulders and hips--but then you realize it only looks recessed because there's like of dirt on a curved back that just makes it look flat like Ambika's.

    The only one I'm torn over is the one with Shanti/Shanthi lying. It seems to be in a group of photos from the early 1970s, but this picture not only looks like 13-year-old Shanthi did in the late 80s, but I suspect the first Shanti who died in 1975 might not have looked so comfortable lying down. Ultimately, though, I'll tag it as Shanti I in the early 70s because it seems to part of a specific trove of pics from the early 70s and also due to the hooked left wrist which could be osteomyelitis, a condition serious enough to bring about euthanasia in a couple of years.
     
    Last edited: 29 Mar 2020
  12. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Lol And now Spike from the girls.;)

    My deep thanks fo you, TinoPup, for going to see Ambika with me on days we thought might be her last and for spending most of another day trying to get updates for me when I feared the end was near. And for texting me the news this morning so I wouldn't be startled by viewing if in a thread. You're the best. :)
     
  13. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    This is a short video I took of Marie Galloway doing daily foot care on Ambika. This involved first tempting her with celery and then getting the foot she needed up on the wire. She began, and as another keeper took over, Marie used her tiny body to stand between Ambika's eye and what was being done to her foot. When that doesn't quite work, Marie uses the clicker--the bridge used to acknowledge a good behavior and signal that a reward would be coming. Only she starts a continuous stream of clicking topped with loud "Good Girl's" to prevent Ambika from hearing the grinder sound of what's being done to her foot! Ambika soon catches on and withdraws the foot. Marie has to start over after the video stops, and she explains that Ambika wasn't being THAT good, to warrant all that clicking--she just needed to drown out the foot care sounds! But Ambika always caught on, smart girl she was!.;)

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/JFNbNycAEU5uPmTd9
     
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  14. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Here is a new article from the Washington Post that describes more personally how Ambika died. The staff, as always, really did do everything possible to make it painless. This staff has done so much to integrate these 7 elephants and don't get much public credit. You can imagine how difficult this was for all of them--especially when they say they couldn't even hug one another for comfort because of COVID-19.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/loca...b3a16e-7059-11ea-aa80-c2470c6b2034_story.html
     
  15. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    A video tribute to Ambika on her 70th birthday.

     
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  16. Bronx

    Bronx New Member

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    AmbikaFan, I would like to correct some of the information you posted and provide some more insight. I've been around many, many elephants and can tell them apart.

    The bull African forest elephant was named Dzimbo. Nancy grew increasingly aggressive towards him and eventually shoved him into the moat causing injuries. He was sent to Lion Country Safari in Florida, where it is thought, he died shortly after due to internal injuries.

    [​IMG]
    Shati (left), Ambika (right)
    The shorter, squat elephant in these photos from 1973 is Ambika while the taller, leaner animal is Shanti. Ambika has always been a smaller animal attaining a shoulder height of 7ft 10in in her prime.
    Ambika’s face has very distinct, thick, puffy, folds above and below her eyes, and a thick trunk that has a lot of width throughout. Her trunk was also disproportionately long, notice how it is on the ground and curled over in this picture. The frontal depigmanetation on Ambika's trunk base does not extend upwards beyond the corner of her eyes, the elephant on the left has depigmention which does go beyond that.
    Also note the angle of the ear where it folds over at the top. Ambika's is more horizontal while Shanti's slopes down at an angle.
    [​IMG]
    Shati (left), Ambika (right)
    Also, if you look at the depigmentation on the face (especially the temporal gland region) you can see how the slimmer animal’s (left) long, horizontal pink streak markings differ from Ambika (right) short vertical pink streak.

    Shanthi and Nancy are touching trunks in this image, Ambika is the one partially hidden by the fence. In 1988, management wanted to integrate the lone African cow, Nancy, to give her some companionship. Up until this point, the two species had been exhibited separately. Since the departure of the forest bull Dzimbo in 1976, Nancy had been kept solitary for the past 12 years. Toni didn't arrive at the National Zoo until October, 1989.

    The one lying in the sternal position is Ambika. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with the angualtion of the left wrist, looks within the normal range.

    The Asian cow in this photo is Shanthi. In profile her spine is not as flat as Ambika’s and she has several distinctive large pink patches of depigmentation on the underside of her trunk.
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2020
  17. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for all of this. I'll drink in any expertise you have to offer. It's exciting to find historic photos, but some are not labelled, or labelled ambiguously, so this is invaluable information. With so few official records now available, I try to work from what memory I have, and as soon as you mentioned "moat," the whole Dzimbo story came back to me. There is something out there I've read that claimed he was the violent one and that says he went to a circus, although I trust your report on this, especially because I remember the fall into the moat. Wherever he went, I think he died very soon after the fall. And of course you're right that Nancy had been separated at least from the time Shanthi had arrived as a baby, which was only shortly after her aggressive behavior with Dzimbo. These introductions were successful, because Nancy not only spent time with them, but became a devoted (and safe) auntie with Shanthi's daughter Kumari born in 1993.

    You're absolutely right about Shanti and Ambika in those pictures, now that I see the details! I immediately looked to the bigger domes assuming it was Ambika. The smaller elephant also looked to be of much stockier proportions than I ever remember Ambika being, but that's clearly just an issue of weight. I remember Shanti, but after 45 years, I had forgotten how thin she was and how much larger her domes were. Learning that Ambika is the elephant lying down, though, is a wonderful gift. This may be one of my favorite pictures of her ever.

    I didn't identify who was who in the Nancy meeting, but I'd agree that it certainly looks like Ambika is to the left and that it's Shanthi who is letting Nancy touch her trunk. The domes look like Ambika's, and although Shanthi is only 13, she seems to lifting her head, which makes her look even taller than she probably was. However, SI's caption says the opposite, and while we may doubt it, the identifications of the human girls, Wallace, and Galloway, are correct. From the Smithsonian Archives:

    [​IMG]Zoom
    Elephants Get to Know Each Other, 1988
    Nancy, the National Zoological Park's (NZP) African elephant, introduces herself to Shanthi and Ambika, NZP's Asian elephants, while Collection Manager John Lehnhardt (lower l.) and keepers Kathy Wallace and Marie Galloway eavesdrop. Ambika responds by permitting Nancy to touch her trunk.
     
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  18. Bronx

    Bronx New Member

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    I'm glad you found the information interesting. One can assume a growing teenage bull would also be prone to aggression. Prior to the moat altercation, Nancy caused an injury to his tusk and six inches of his tail had to be amputated due to a bite from her.

    [​IMG]
    The captioning for the Smithsonian photo is incorrect. Ambika is near the bottom and Shathi is standing on an object that is raising her forequarters, thus appearing taller (though she has always been a larger cow). By looking at the ears, depigmentation, and faces they can be positively identified. Shanthi has never had much depigmentation on the front of her ears, just look at the ear lobes, all gray.

    Now look at Ambika's ear edges which are depigmented. Even the vein pattern on the ears matches along with the temporal gland area depigmentation. The overall head shape is Ambika.
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2020
  19. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Totally--I never doubted it was Shanthi. This all goes to show, however, that even captions of official photos can't always be trusted, which is how I mis-identified Shanti and Ambika, making expertise and memory like yours all the more valuable. I once knew the Asian studbook very thoroughly, but not the African, so the complete lack of research on Dzimbo and not knowing his birth/transfer dates, that moat fall has become like a dim legend in my mind, with few specifics. I didn't even know until a post in the Bronx thread that he had been a forest elephant. I had thought he too was aggressive but remember clearly that Nancy caused his injury. If one looks at the steel fencing in the S/A pics, it would seem Dzimbo must have been propelled over the fence into the moat. When I think of the bulls NZP has had--plus Nancy--I'm amazed that the old Elephant House yards contained them safely. The flimsy interior fences of short log pilings and thin metal gates in the Nancy picture, for instance, by all rights were insufficient for Africans or bulls. And Ringling has been consistently good to NZP regarding elephants; they even offered cows back during the building of Elephant Trails, but the Smithsonian felt it would be too controversial.

    Now I yearn for a complete tour of all the elephant history and knowledge you have in your brain! You're quite an enigma--old enough to have extensive species knowledge and know historical details from long ago, yet young enough to pump out these complex photo compilations with speed and ease! Thank you, and please add anything else you may know about Ambika.
     
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  20. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    I am going to try to share some screen shots from the webcams. They won't all be in order, but here should be some images from March 11, 2020, one of the last days Ambika was in Spike's yard.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I probably have hundreds of images from the webcams, so I'll share as many as I can over time. These were probably my favorites tough since they're recent and close up.