Rangoon’s Oldest Elephant Retires

By Tin Htet Paing 24 January 2017

RANGOON — After five decades entertaining visitors at the Rangoon Zoo shaking her hips to the beat in party outfits, the city zoo’s oldest elephant has been retired, said a zoo official.

The beloved 64-year-old Mo Mo was retired on her last birthday in October 2016; however, there was no official announcement from the zoo, and an official told media about her retirement at the zoo’s 111th-anniversary celebration from January 21-25.

Mo Mo is still being kept under the care of the Rangoon Zoo, said Ko Myo Kyaw Thu, the administrative manager of the Htoo Foundation’s zoo and garden business unit responsible for the management of the zoo on Tuesday.

She will be kept at the zoo until her last breath along with eight fellow friends—five females and three males, he added. Even though her keepers and mahouts have retired one after another, she remains healthy.

Born in 1953 and donated to the zoo by U Khoon Sandah from Karenni State’s Loikaw in 1961, Mo Mo has been so popular among the public—especially children—that she became an icon of the Rangoon Zoo and appeared in television commercials promoting the site.

Mo Mo also participated in parades held to mark the arrival of a Buddha tooth relic from China during the 1990s. The Rangoon Zoo began celebrating her birthdays annually when she turned 60.

When asked if the zoo management had a plan to set her free at any sanctuaries or elephant camps, Ko Myo Kyaw Htu said it was impossible for her to live in a different place as she was raised in a zoo.

“Life at elephant camps will be different from her nature and she will have problems with her food,” he said.

Many elephant advocates had lobbied to free her—including American Tiffany Parker, who shares Mo Mo’s birthday and petitioned last year for her freedom.

“Please release Mo Mo to an elephant sanctuary where she can live out her final years with peace and dignity,” the petition read.

“It is a miracle that she has managed to survive all these years in captivity, so let’s give her the rest and respite she deserves,” Parker wrote in the petition.