Elephants are known for their long lifespans and close familial bonds, so the death of an elephant is always a deeply sad event. Tricia, who was aged 65, had been a resident of Perth Zoo since 1963 and was an integral part of the zoo family.

Photo credit: Perth Zoo

Farewell to an icon

On 6 July 2022, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said: “Tonight, Western Australia farewells an icon. The loss of Tricia is a sad day for the community and for Perth Zoo. She was a much-loved attraction and her stature and grace will be remembered by all who had the privilege of seeing her.”

In memory of Tricia the elephant

Photo credit: Perth Zoo

Loved by all

Since her arrival at Perth Zoo in 1963 from Vietnam, Tricia help generations of children develop an appreciation for elephants and learn about the need to protect these magnificent creatures. Tricia also played an important role in the zoo’s education and conservation programs.

Public mourning ritual

To help the public mourn, Perth Zoo held a special Memorial Walk in memory of Tricia. The walk started at the Elephant enclosure and went through the zoo.

Attendees were encouraged to wear something purple in tribute to Tricia the elephant. Coming together as one to mourn Tricia’s loss and celebrate her life was an important public grief ritual. The procession allowed those attending to walk while sharing their memories and connecting with others who were grieving Tricia’s loss. And for those who couldn’t attend TV News broadcasts, help those at home grief in their living rooms.

Pet loss grief

The loss of Tricia is a reminder of just how important the love of pets is in our lives. Despite Tricia being a zoo animal, this gentle giant captured the hearts of all those who visited her, young and old. So when we lose a much-loved Zoo icon or family pet, it’s important to take the time to grieve their loss.

Out pourings on social media demonstrate the wide range of emotions people can feel when they lose a much-loved pet, including sadness, disbelief, anger, guilt and loneliness.

Elephant mourning

But it wasn’t only Tricia’s loyal Keepers and public fans who needed to grieve. Permai and Putra, the two elephants sharing her enclosure, also needed healing time. So the Zoo closed the elephant exhibit to the public for a few days and spent time comforting Permai and Putra.

In memory of Tricia the elephant

Photo credit: Perth Zoo

In the wild, elephants show grief by touching and caressing the dead body with their trunks. At Perth Zoo, Keepers used gentle touches and words of encouragement to help Permai and Putra through their time of loss.

Acknowledging grief

It is important to remember that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve and that everyone will cope in their own individual way.

Perth Zoo was extremely grateful and thanked everyone for their support as they, too, grieved the loss of Tricia.