Happy Birthday to African Elephant Lilac!

African elephant at Seneca Park Zoo

June 25, 2021

With so much activity here at the Zoo lately, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate a very special and loved lady here at the zoo. Lilac turned 43 last month (May 1st)! Orphaned as a calf in South Africa, Lilac joined our family here at Seneca Park Zoo in 1979 with Genny C. Since then, she has been a favorite of guests and keepers – I’d even go as far to say she is an icon here in Rochester! She is our smallest elephant, currently around 7,000 pounds, and if you look closely you can see her hair is actually red. Don’t let her small size fool you, she is affectionately known as a “little packet of hot sauce” and completes our herd as being the sassy, spunky one who loves to keep her caregivers on their toes.One of my favorite things about Lilac is that she is motivated more by her relationships with us than by food. This means that she won’t just come over to you because you have food; she comes because you have spent the time for her to get to know you. This is why she is usually the last elephant that new keepers train with. But because it requires so much time and effort, the relationship with her is the most rewarding. It is a highlight of my career when I knew we hit that mark.

Turning 43 is a big deal in the elephant world. The average life expectancy for African Elephants is around 39 years old, so all three of our elephants are considered geriatric. That’s why it is so important to take that time to build a relationship with all of them, so we can ensure they age gracefully and are able to provide whatever care they need. My favorite thing about her is that you would never know she is 43 – she still acts like a young calf running around and playing with her enrichment.

The next time you are at the zoo, please stop by elephants and wish our gorgeous, little gal a BIG Happy (belated) Birthday!

– Zoo Keeper Hanna Kaiser

*Banner photo by Hanna Kaiser 


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