Santa Barbara Zoo's elephant program ends with death of beloved 'Little Mac'

(Santa Barbara Zoo)

The last elephant at the Santa Barbara Zoo has died after 46 years under the care of zoo officials, and with it, the zoo's elephant program.

The 48-year-old Asian beloved elephant affectionally known as 'Little Mac' was humanely euthanized on Sept. 25 after several days of hospice care due to failing health.

"She was in her exhibit yard, surrounded by her keepers and other Zoo staff who have cared for her over the years. We appreciate the outpouring of support from our friends in the Santa Barbara community during this very difficult time," wrote the Santa Barbara Zoo on its website.

(Santa Barbara Zoo)

"She faced chronic challenges with her teeth and arthritis in her legs, but her overall condition began declining in June due to the onset of additional medical problems. She continued to decline in spite of our best efforts, especially in the past two weeks," said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s vice president of animal care & health. "We had exhausted the medical options available that would allow her to have a good quality of life. It was time to let her go."

About a week ago, zookeepers noticed a color change in Little Mac's dung that led them to tests that confirmed the elderly elephant had bleeding in her intestines, according to officials.

The Zoo partnered with VNA Health to provide emotional support and guidance to the staff and guests at the zoo dealing with grief following the loss of Little Mac.

(Santa Barbara Zoo)

The loss of Little Mac is grieved by an entire community that grew up with this sweet elephant. The death of Little Mac also signals the end of the Santa Barbara Zoo's 47-year-old elephant program.

"Current standards for elephant management set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) focus on having bigger herds with breeding bulls, and larger exhibits, neither of which are possible at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The Zoo program was 'grandfathered in' as the exhibit was especially designed for the two female elephants, and had been modified many times since 2004 to address the challenges the animals faced as they aged," said the Zoo on their website.

(Santa Barbara Zoo)

Little Mac was one of two Asian elephants brought to the Santa Barbara Zoo in the early 1970s from India, in exchange for six California sea lions. Little Mac's companion, 'Sujatha,' passed away in fall 2018 after also battling declining health.

Any plans for future occupants of this exhibit are currently unknown. For more information on the passing of Little Mac, visit

Donations in memory of Little Mac and Sujatha can be made to the International Elephant Foundation.