NEW ORLEANS – Before her passing, Panya the Elephant had a long, happy, and fulfilled life in her 39 years at the Audubon Zoo.
The Audubon Zoo announced that after a long battle with kidney disease, the decision was made to humanely euthanize her.
Panya was 55 years old, and was one of the longest-standing members of the Audubon family.
She was beloved by staff, volunteers, and the community and touched countless visitors during her time at the Zoo. “Panya was an amazing animal—brilliant and incredibly strong-spirited. We all loved her, and we will miss her deeply,” says Audubon Zoo Curator of Large Mammals Joe Forys, who worked with Panya for more than 19 years.
“Panya was such an iconic member of the New Orleans community—she inspired a lifelong passion for wildlife and conservation in generations of Zoo visitors,” says Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman, “She leaves behind an incredible legacy that will be felt far beyond her lifetime.”
Panya served as an ambassador for her species, educating millions of people about the declining wild elephant population.
Over the last 75 years, the population of Asian elephants is estimated to have declined by 50 percent or more, maintaining their endangered status according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Within three generations, Asian elephants could disappear from the wild if action is not taken.
Members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), including Audubon, are very involved in elephant conservation efforts, investing more than $10.5 million towards elephant conservation between 2012 and 2016 alone.
Audubon Zoo is home to Panya’s longtime companion Jean (age 46) as well as Surapa (age 36), and Jothi (age 37), who came to Audubon in November 2018.