Statement on Ellen the Elephant



Stroke or Heart Attack Likely to Blame for Death of 60-Year-Old Elephant

LITTLE ROCK (July 5, 2011) – Sadly, this morning Ellen the elephant died with staff by her side.  Preliminary indications are that 60-year-old Ellen died from a stroke or heart attack according to Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Marilynn Baeyens.  The Zoo was closed earlier this morning to allow Zoo staff time to mourn the loss, notify all Zoo staff, remove Ellen from the Zoo, and to notify the elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP). 

In 1954 a train pulled into Little Rock to deliver a very special package:  a three-year-old elephant named Ellen.  Ellen was purchased for the Little Rock Zoo by a donation from Raymond Rebsamen, a local businessman and philanthropist.  Ellen was brought to the Zoo to be a companion to Ruth, an elephant living at the capital city’s zoo since 1937 when she was purchased from the Engesser Circus. 

Ellen quickly captured the hearts of Arkansans.  Her arrival was met with much excitement and that same excitement was seen on the faces of children and adults alike when they visited Ellen throughout the years.  Generations celebrated birthday parties for Ellen and some remember a time past when Ellen gave rides to the public. Ellen holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Arkansans and will be deeply missed by Zoo staff and by the community as a whole. 

Donations in Ellen’s memory can be made to the International Elephant Foundation at  Pictures of Ellen from 1954 to today can also be found online at

The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things.  With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.  For more information, visit