PHOTOS: A look back on cherished Perth Zoo Asian elephant Tricia’s life

Elisia SeeberThe West Australian
Perth Zoo records keeper Chris Wilson with Tricia the elephant.
Camera IconPerth Zoo records keeper Chris Wilson with Tricia the elephant. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

It’s a sad time for many West Australians as they say goodbye to Perth Zoo’s beloved female Asian elephant, Tricia.

Tricia died aged 65 on the evening of July 6, after a rapid deterioration of her health.

In a heartbreaking statement, Perth Zoo said Tricia “passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by her loving and dedicated zoo keepers, some of whom have looked after her for decades”.

“Tricia was one of the oldest elephants in the world, and while we knew the time to say goodbye was approaching, it’s still heartbreaking,” the statement said.

While the Perth matriarch is gone, she will forever live on in the hearts of zoo patrons who visited her over the past six decades.

“She has helped generations develop an appreciation for elephants and wildlife conservation,” Perth Zoo said in their farewell tribute.

“Tricia was an icon of Western Australia and her impact on the millions of people who visited her over the years will certainly not be forgotten.”

The early days

Tricia was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on January 24, 1957, and arrived at Perth Zoo in 1963. The beautiful Asian elephant was named after the 1962 Miss Australian winner Tricia Reschke. Check out a few snaps from her early days at the South Perth zoo below.

The South Perth Zoo welcomed two new ‘vacuum cleaners’ - baby elephants Tanya and Tricia in 1963. They are pictured with keepers Harold Brooke of Rivervale (left) and Jim Ashwin of Queens Park.
Camera IconThe South Perth Zoo welcomed two new ‘vacuum cleaners’ - baby elephants Tanya and Tricia in 1963. They are pictured with keepers Harold Brooke of Rivervale (left) and Jim Ashwin of Queens Park. Credit: WA News
Keepers and visitors to Perth Zoo are bracing for the worst following news an iconic resident’s health was in steep decline.
Camera IconTricia as a youngster in 1965 alongside another elephant, Tanya. Credit: Supplied
Tricia the elephant at Perth Zoo. 1981
Camera IconTricia the elephant at Perth Zoo in 1981. Credit: The West Australian
Small cages. Perth Zoo, elephant cage. Tricia the Elephant is shown here. 19th April 1982
Camera IconPerth Zoo’s Asian elephant Tricia in her small cage back in April 1982. Credit: The West Australian
Zoo elephant Tricia gets a taste of her new home guided by keeper Mark True. Photo by Tom Dann. 18 September 1986
Camera IconZoo elephant Tricia gets a taste of her new home guided by keeper Mark True in September 1986. Credit: Tom Dann/The West Australian
Tricia with former trainer Harold Brooker when he retired in 1980. Photo taken 25 May 1988. Tricia the elephant
Camera IconTricia with former trainer Harold Brooker, who retired in 1980. The photo was taken later on 25 May 1988. Credit: The West Australian

Beloved by all

Over the years, Tricia became hugely popular among both zoo visitors and zoo keepers.

“She was cheeky and loved sneaking up on people when she was out walking around the Zoo and had everyone wrapped around her trunk!” Perth Zoo said in a farewell tribute.

Devastated West Aussies took to social media earlier in the week to pay tribute to the animal, after learning she was nearing the end of her life.

Perth Zoo's Jody Polson with Tricia the elephant.
Camera IconPerth Zoo's Jody Polson with Tricia the elephant. Credit: Perth Zoo
Keeping warm at the zoo. Matriach elephant Tricia gets a snuggle with keeper Claire Stratford under the warmth of a heater in the sleeping den.
Picture: Sharon Smith The West Australian 31 July 2009
Camera IconKeeping warm at the zoo. Matriach elephant Tricia had a snuggle with keeper Claire Stratford under the warmth of a heater in the sleeping den on 31 July, 2009 Credit: Sharon Smith/WA News
Perth Zoo elephant keepers, Kirsty Carey and Claire Stratford take Tricia the Asian elephant for her daily walk through the zoo's picturesque grounds.   Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian   26 March 2009   *** FAIRFAX ONLINE OUT ***
Camera IconPerth Zoo elephant keepers, Kirsty Carey and Claire Stratford took Tricia the Asian elephant for her daily walk through the zoo's picturesque grounds on 26 March 2009. Credit: Bill Hatto/WA News

A natural artist

Some animal lovers even have art by Tricia in their homes, with the elephant becoming known for spraying paint through her trunk to create unique pieces, which are sold to help charities that protect endangered Sumatran elephants.

Tricia enjoying a painting session (part of her enrichment activities).
Camera IconTricia enjoying a painting session (part of her enrichment activities). Credit: Pictures courtesy of Perth Zo
Teduh and Tricia, elephants at the Perth Zoo, try their trunks at painting.
Camera IconTeduh and Tricia, elephants at the Perth Zoo, try their trunks at painting. Credit: Steve Ferrier/WA News
Perth Zoo employees Christine Wilson and her husband Chris Wilson, with Tricia the 63-year-old elephant and a heart print she has made with the tip of her trunk. Love blossomed for Christine and Chris after they met at the zoo.
PICTURE NIC ELLIS   THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Camera IconPerth Zoo employees Christine Wilson and her husband Chris Wilson, with Tricia at age 63. They hold a heart print created by Tricia with the tip of her trunk. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Happy moments

Perth Zoo's Tricia the Asian Elephant will celebrate her 60th birthday
Camera IconPerth Zoo's Tricia the Asian Elephant before her 60th birthday. Credit: supplied
Great job: Clair Holland and Gavin Bourchier wash Tricia.
Camera IconGreat job: Clair Holland and Gavin Bourchier wash Tricia. Credit: Mogens Johansen/WA News
Settling in: Gavin Bourchier and Clair Holland feed Tricia grapes at Perth Zoo.
Camera IconSettling in: Gavin Bourchier and Clair Holland feed Tricia grapes at Perth Zoo. Credit: Sharon Smith/WA News

Jumbo celebrations

Tricia loved her many birthday celebrations, where her dedicated Perth Zoo Keepers would treat her to a giant birthday cake made of bran and fruits.

Zoo Birthdays: Tricia the Asian Elephant gets stuck into her birthday cake today. She turned 61. Photo by Michael Wilson, The West Australian.
Camera IconTricia the Asian Elephant gets stuck into her birthday cake today when she turned 61. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian
Zoo Birthdays: Tricia the Asian Elephant gets stuck into her birthday cake today. She turned 61. Photo by Michael Wilson, The West Australian.
Camera IconTricia the Asian Elephant gets stuck into her birthday cake, when she turned 61. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Tricia’s passing will mark the beginning of a massive change to Perth Zoo as the organisation looks to say goodbye to its remaining elephants.

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