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Ambika (1948-2020)

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

  1. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    Here are the final two screenshots that I believe I took of Ambika prior to the zoo closing. She was having a nice day out with Shanthi.

    I did see her after this, but I didn't take any screenshots, although I now wish that I would have thought to. I suppose, at least I'll have the memories. At least we can enjoy these.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    At one point, Bozie tried to take Ambika's food. Ambika scooped it over with her trunk and held it into the position that you can see here. After Bozie left, going up towards the ECC (as you see here), Shanthi then came over to join her. You can see that Ambika kept her food guarded. Lesson to be learned: Don't steal from The Queen.
     
  2. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    So wonderful! Please keep sharing as you have time! This thread is our little memorial to honor and remember her.

    I feel like I have virtually no good pictures since Elephant Trails opened, as all possible shots are either very long distance or obscured by bollards and wire. I'm going to search some cloud caches later this week to find pre-2013 shots.
     
  3. Bronx

    Bronx New Member

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    1961
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    1973
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    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    1972
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    2009
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2020
  4. Elephant Enthusiast

    Elephant Enthusiast Well-Known Member

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    For me, Ambika has always held, and will continue to hold, a special place in my heart. Even though I never had the opportunity to see Ambika in person, she had a significant impact on my affinity for elephants. Ambika was one of the first few elephants, including Shanthi and Kandula, I learned to recognize as an individual when I first began to research the Asian elephants living in North America over a decade ago. Over the years, I've followed the changes that have occurred at the National Zoo from the construction and completion of Elephant Trials to the acquisition of five new elephants and through it all Ambika has been there. It's hard to believe that Ambika has passed but it's reassuring to know that she received the absolute best care possible from her keepers and the animal care staff, in addition to living a long and happy life. She certainly set the longevity bar by living to be 72 years old; an age that few captive elephants have reached. Ambika undoubtedly left an everlasting legacy on the National Zoo community and had a significant impact on those who knew her. Her story will forever inspire everyone to conserve and protect not only elephants but wildlife as a whole.

    Rest in peace, Ambika

    1948 - March 27, 2020

    Gone but never forgotten
     
  5. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    I managed to document my last time seeing Ambika on December 3, 2019. We went to the zoo multiple times during our trip to Washington DC and could never get close. It was cold so they kept by the barn doors when outside. Then, on our very last day, we swung by the Elephant Community Center on our way out of the zoo.

    They were right there getting a checkup:
    [​IMG]

    Pleading for more and more treats:
    [​IMG]

    It was one of my favorite days, getting to see the whole trio standing right there:
    [​IMG]

    I knew this could be my last time seeing Ambika, so I made sure to take this picture of her standing to the side, facing Shanthi:
    [​IMG]

    Ambika herself was not having the best day, taking a very slow walk out of the building, long after Shanthi and Bozie had made their exit:
    [​IMG]

    I spotted her one more time after I left the Panda exhibit, this would be my last time ever seeing her in person:
    [​IMG]

    Although I hoped to see her again, it wasn't meant to be. I was warned while I was there that this could be it, so I'm really glad that I took it in. Each day we had her was a gift.

    EDIT: These are my personal photos of the elephants taken with my smartphone. Feel free to grab them if you want. One can never have enough pictures of Ambika.
     
  6. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Every day really was a gift. I credit you with getting me on the cams in the last month. Thanks to you, I got to enjoy some wonderful milestones we didn't expect, and I also saw Ambika last Tuesday when I thought she would collapse. If I hadn't seen how crippled she was and how much she must be suffering, I might be selfishly wishing right now that her life had been prolonged.

    Elephant Trails was a wonderful improvement in the NZP facilities, but it was really unfortunate for picture-takers. There was only 11:00 at the Elephant Outpost and some occasions in Spike's yard when the girls went swimming in the rain that one could get an unobstructed shot without it being from great distance, and it had been ages since Ambika or Shanthi had been to the Outpost. This photo of all the gates is one of the best pictures I've ever seen from Asia Trail--it's just so distant from where Shanthi and Ambika had to spend their time. Inside, one has the proximity, but those wires always seem to be obscuring their eyes in my attempts, ruining any chance to see their expressions. Your side view reminds me how easy it always was to pick Ambika out for the unusual downward curvature of her spine. Age and arthritis usually seem to create the opposite, a hump-back look.
     
  7. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    One more before I go to bed. I've spent way too much time looking through my many images of the wonderful elephants.

    Remember how I mentioned that Ambika and Spike had a moment? It turns out that they had one before that, which I caught on the webcam.

    Unlike the one a few days ago, I managed to get a screenshot of the one prior. I actually remember this, because Bozie and Shanthi were originally by the gate and then moved over to the side when Ambika came walking over. This was very similar to how it was a few days ago, except that time, Ambika was facing to the side, parallel to the gate.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    I love this. I wonder if keepers set this up as a treat for her. Bozie and Shanthi look like they're eating, lol, clearing the way for her to have this moment with Spike. She deserved it.
     
  9. NOVAElephantEnthusiast

    NOVAElephantEnthusiast Member

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    Where do I begin... Ambika was the elephant that started it all for me back when I was just 7 years old. Since then I have been amazed by them in every way, shape, and form. She helped start what I now call my "Elephant Obsession" and allowed it to grow to what it is today. I will deeply miss this beautiful queen and am sad I wont get to see her when I volunteer at the zoo anymore. She had so much character and anyone who has watched her interact with her keepers and elephant companions I'm sure would agree. Below are just a couple photos I have of her that I could find in my thousands of elephant photos. I'll be posting more and maybe a video or two when I sort through some more.
    Ambika Yard 3.JPG Ambika and shanti.jpg Ambika with trainer.jpg
     
  10. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    How lovely this is. I'm so glad you joined and have shared your experiences with us. How I wish I could have lived close by in Virginia and volunteered. I so hope that she's somewhere where her legs don't hurt, she gets to have her grains in whatever configuration she wants each day, and she knows somehow just how much we loved her. I suspect we're probably very different ages, and yet my story is so similar and also began when I was very young. Imagine just how many of us she touched! I so appreciate all the time everyone has taken to make this a real tribute thread to her. I'm not gifted with electronics skill, but I will try to add my story sometime soon.
     
  11. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Bozie's Friend posed an interesting question: Does anyone know anything about the single very long tush Ambika had in the early pictures? It's unusually long for a tush, and there's only one. Now, Ambika did have a longtime habit of often having something in the corner of her mouth. I used to think of her being like adopted Russian orphans who, long after their placement in new families, would always keep a piece of bread tightly clenched in their hand, the memory of going hungry never forgotten. Or maybe she just liked a good chew. But that white thing is in more than one picture, and is pretty vertical, while the things she carried around usually stuck out the side of her mouth more horizontally. It looks very much like a tusk, not even a tush. Unfortunately, this goes back to when I was very young, and I know I looked to Nancy for beautiful ivory, not Ambika.

    I also can't stop looking at the picture from 1972 that Bronx graced us with, the black-and-white photo showing Ambika casually walking in what was then a very narrow yard next to the giraffe enclosure. People are casually walking in every direction, some even on the other side of the giraffe yard, and not a soul seems to notice the elephant walking by! The hidden moat and the sleek, low railings give the illusion that Ambika is casually walking amongst the visitors, humans and elephant all mutually oblivious to one another! With the need for every inch of space now in a landlocked zoo, I take special note of the large concrete plaza that, in retrospect, seems like wasted space. Someone realized that, and the elephant yard was eventually expanded to include that entire space, featuring the large pool identical in size to one added in what is now Spike's yard. For all the space the elephants lacked in the old Elephant House, there was always excellent, close viewing for visitors, looping from a space between the giraffe yard and eventual pool all the way around to where Spike's yard is now--what used to be a rhino yard and the hippo yard/pool that's still there, unrenovated. While I often wish we could still walk that path that's blocked off for better human viewing, the priority is on elephants' well-being, and that's as it should be.
     
  12. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    Thanks to Bronx for extricating this photo from the collage and enlarging it, I was finally able to read the caption and notice details in the image. Ambika only weighed 3,000 pounds at 13 years of age! She spent much of her zoo life around 6,500. Maybe--along with that constant bit of food in her cheek--she really did want for adequate food in India. The caption also notes that she "roared and shook." I agree that the occasion would certainly warrant it, but it still seems uncharacteristically unpleasant and ruffled for Ambika. It's also fascinating to me that this isn't a cargo ship--it's a passenger ship, with curious onlookers watching every minute of this! Last, but not least, the chain on her ankle.....lest we ever forget what common practices were even at our beloved NZP. And just look at that magnificent trunk, unfurled in all of its lengthy glory!
     
  13. Bozie's Friend

    Bozie's Friend Member

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    I found some more pictures from February 12th tucked away in my email. Here's three of them featuring Ambika!

    It was a nice morning and our three ladies were out enjoying themselves close to the Outpost Yard entrance.
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    They spent some close time together. You can easily tell, this was one of Ambika's better days. On a bad day, she would barely leave the private barn.
    [​IMG]

    Shortly after noon, Spike came over to the gate and Bozie and Shanthi were quick to meet him. Then, the Queen Ambika walked over. This picture was captured a few minutes before the other one I posted. You can see Bozie and Shanthi were still working their way over to the side and Spike was quick to greet Ambika.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    I posed the question about what looks like a tusk in the 1970s pictures of Ambika to Bronx, and he graciously replied with this information:

    That is certainly a tush which many Asian cows possess, sometimes only one or two though some are born with none at all. This is evident in skulls which show a total closure of the socket by bone indicating the absence of ivory. Most often times they are hidden in the sulcus (pocket of skin encasing the tusk). I suspect Ambika broke off her tush years ago, perhaps damaging the pulp and it never grew back.

    Asian cows sometimes do grow quite long tushes though some places trim them down due to aesthetics plus the ivory being softer and more prone to damage. Most often just leave them if they are not protruding much.

    He also attached this link showing Shanti's tushes, which were equally long:

    Indian Elephants with Keeper at National Zoological Park
     
  15. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
    Nor the furious winter’s rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.


    William Shakespeare, Cymbeline
     
  16. Sarus Crane

    Sarus Crane Well-Known Member

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    RIP Ambika!
     
  17. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much for this. I never dreamed it could feel so perfect for this verse and Ambika, but the harp and tonal patterns evoke Elizabethan lute music and an angelic feel, but the lower viol or sitar provides a running thread of the finality of death, all with an Indian sensibility. This is uniquely perfect for her. I bet she's listening.;)
     
  18. Mbwamwitu

    Mbwamwitu Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I'm just seeing this and it's overwhelming. I did not know Ambika nearly as well as some of the rest of you who've been volunteering with or seeing her for so long. But she was easily one of the most inspiring and impactful individuals in whose presence I have had the honor to stand.

    I lived in DC twice before - in 2015, and 2017. Not sure which go it was but I was blown away when I first learned Ambika's life story. I couldn't believe a wild-caught elephant from my home country of India was still alive and thriving in DC. Ambika became a living monument for me and I started making half-trips to the zoo in which I would literally get to the elephants, stand in Ambika's presence for a while, and then head back out dazed and overwhelmed with thoughts about how much the world, India, zoos and conservation have changed over the course of her life.

    Ambika saw life in the wild in India as a calf - not just in the wild but in what might be forest areas lost in the intervening decades to agriculture and development. I liked to anthropomorphize a little bit here and think that she had memories of India. That I could hang in her presence and the two of us could think about the awesomeness of the country we've left behind...

    ...and of its atrocities. Because I can't imagine the trauma she must have gone through during the taming process to became a logging elephant. We hear stories of how it used to be done back in those early years of independent India. Distressed me more than once to see her and imagine all the suffering in her past - being caught, broken, worked, and transported across the world...

    ...only to see the gradual transformation of U.S. zoo and elephant-keeping standards, while the world outside her sphere of stimulus was doing the same. India came of age and went from being a hellhole for elephants to one in which - despite persisting captivity issues - wild populations are hanging on under strong protections. Conservation came of age and started viewing populations in zoos from a genetic health and education-over-purely-entertainment perspective. And elephant exhibits came of age, so the ex-logger could live out her last few years in a spacious, enriching complex with companions, keepers and visitors that loved and honored her.

    I don't have y'all's extensive knowledge of the different individuals and dynamics of the Zoo's herd, and read posts here to learn more about them. But I've definitely experienced the enormity of her presence. This will sound melodramatic but I think meditating on her life has made me understand why my culture reveres elephants, even individual ones. The combination of their high intelligence and long lives gives them the same aura as human elders. I moved back to D.C. earlier this year to start a new job, and made pilgrimage-style visits to see her - my fellow Indian in D.C., my elder from whom to seek unspoken blessings. I grew up as an urban atheist hating on my countryfolk who go to elephant temples to get holy water sprayed on their heads from the trunks of genuinely abused domestic elephants, but with Ambika, I came to understand that impulse. Thank Ganesh she was in a significantly better condition than those others.

    She was off-exhibit on my last go, but the keeper (I'm hating myself for forgetting her name, it's with M) was so nice as to take me out back to say one last namaste. Ambika was doing better than she had been in the days before that, so I'm glad I got to see her one last time in a happy state. She lived a long, turbulent and impactful life - I'm glad she didn't have to suffer for too much longer at the end.

    Rest (or reincarnate) in peace and power, Ma Ambika. I hope @AmbikaFan and others who were such devoted admirers find their own peace and power in remembering her, and especially that Bozie, the keepers and fellow elephants weather this loss as well as is possible. And let's all keep up our commitment to elephant conservation and wellbeing around the world.
     
  19. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    Thank Ganesh for you, Mbwamwitu. I will never, ever, ever forget this. It somehow says everything.
     
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  20. Elephantelephant

    Elephantelephant Well-Known Member

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    Remembering Ambika the Elephant | Born Free USA
    For the sake of interest, I give this article from animal rights activists. She claims that Ambika has suffered her entire life in a small enclosure without enrichment, and the zoo keepers have carried out experiments on her that she did not react negatively only because he was mentally destroyed.:D

    And for amusement: note the opening picture under which it is written "Ambika the elephant." , is not Ambika, but Shanthi.:D:eek:
     
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