Big, beautiful Tricia, thought to have been one of the oldest elephants in the world, has died at 65, marking the end of an era for Perth Zoo.
Tributes began flooding in immediately for the Asian elephant who painted pictures and entertained countless visitors in almost six decades at the zoological park.
“Tricia wasn’t just well-known, she was well-loved,” Premier Mark McGowan said, in a statement.
“Her stature and her grace were compelling. For many, she was a Perth icon.
“For six decades, she was an integral part of any visit to Perth Zoo.
“If you lived in Perth at some point in your life then you probably have a memory of Tricia.”
Her death on Wednesday night, which was said to be from age-related complications and expected to spark the closure of the zoo’s elephant exhibit, was not unexpected.
Veterinarians and Tricia’s keepers had been monitoring her health closely for some time before her health rapidly deteriorated, McGowan’s office said, describing the elephant as among the oldest in the world and the oldest being cared for by a zoo in Australasia.
“Tricia’s final moments were peaceful. She was surrounded by her carers in her night quarters on Wednesday evening, July 6, 2022,” it said, in a statement.
The zoo wants mourners to donate to the Tricia Tribute to Conservation Fund in lieu of sending flowers, to help create a “lasting legacy for this extraordinary animal”.
The fund is designed to help support the zoo’s conservation efforts and build an elephant guard post in Indonesian island Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem, to help monitor and protect one of the last remaining wild herds of Sumatran elephants.
Six-year-old Tricia, named after a Miss Australia winner, arrived in Western Australia from Vietnam in 1963 and charmed Perth crowds ever since.
Funds from the sale of her popular artwork go towards protecting the endangered Sumatran elephants.
“She knows how to take a piece of your heart and she doesn’t return it,” elephant keeper Kristy Carey said on Tuesday, before the huge mammal died.
“There’s going to be a huge hole missing when she does go.”
Perth Zoo will hold a memorial walk on Sunday to give the public a chance to pay their respects to the matriarch.
“As an ambassador animal, Tricia had a monumental impact on the conservation of her species and it’s heart-warming to see this continue after her passing,” Environment Minister Reece Whitby said.
“I would encourage everyone to honour Tricia and say farewell by visiting the memorial walk or to share memories of Tricia online on Perth Zoo’s website.”