opinion

Editorial: Farewell to Tricia, Perth Zoo’s grand dame

EditorialThe West Australian
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Tricia the elephant has captured the hearts of generations of West Australians.
Camera IconTricia the elephant has captured the hearts of generations of West Australians. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

In 2018, a study was done which showed a third of all Britons had seen or met the Queen in real life.

For those older than 65, the figure leapt to more than half.

In WA, our equivalent is Tricia the elephant.

For decades, the now-elderly matriarch has delighted West Australians and thrilled visitors to Perth Zoo with her quiet grace and regal nature.

There would be few people who have grown up in Perth who don’t have a memory of Tricia.

Many of those who remember visiting Tricia in their own childhoods have since brought their own children to see her, creating special memories for another generation.

Transperth even named a ferry for her, so ingrained is Tricia on the fabric of the city.

Speaking on Tricia’s 60th birthday, elephant keeper Kirsty Carey said encounters with the elephant regularly moved zoo visitors to tears.

“I’ve cared for Tricia for 11 years and I am constantly amazed by the affect she has on people,” Ms Carey said at the time.

Perth Zoo's Tricia the Asian Elephant will celebrate her 60th birthday
Camera IconPerth Zoo's Tricia the Asian Elephant will celebrate her 60th birthday Credit: supplied/supplied

She holds a special place in the hearts of generations of WA kids.

Sadly, we have learnt Tricia is in her final days.

At 65, Tricia is believed to be one of the world’s oldest elephants.

The zoo staff who have devoted their careers to caring for her are now doing their best to keep her comfortable in her last moments.

In a statement, the zoo said Tricia would be given a “dignified and respectful end to her life” when the time is right.

The news has devastated her legions of fans who shared their memories of her online.

“I’ve loved you Tricia since I first saw you when I was a little girl and now I’m late 40s,” one said.

“I vividly remember feeding you peanuts as a child with my brother and sisters,” recalled another.

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. Credit: The West Australian/The West Australian

Much like with the Queen, the death of Perth’s favourite pachyderm will herald a new era.

There has long been a plan in place to help the zoo transition after her passing.

The world, and community expectations of zoos, have changed considerably since Tricia first stepped off Fremantle Wharf in 1963 as a six-year-old after a long journey from Vietnam via Singapore.

“Tricia has lived through an era when zoos were a random collection of animals kept for human enjoyment,” Ms Carey said back in 2017.

“Many of our older visitors recall Tricia living in a concrete enclosure and she was named after the 1962 Miss Australia, reflective of a time when beauty pageants were in vogue.”

It is now recognised that small metropolitan zoos — even ones where they have their own swimming pools and massage therapists —are no longer ideal homes for large elephants.

After Tricia’s death, her two younger companions, Putra Mas and Permai, will be relocated to other zoos where they will enjoy the company of other elephants in bigger herds.

And Perth Zoo will look to a new future without her.

Elephants may never forget, but Perth will never forget Tricia.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie

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