African Elephant Lilac Turns 45 – Learn How She is Helping Advance Science for Her Species

May 1, 2023

This year, African elephant Lilac turns 45 years old. At this age, female African elephants are considered geriatric. She is in the middle of Seneca Park Zoo’s other elephants, Genny C (45) and Moki (40). Lilac participates in daily training sessions and daily bath sessions—plus she’s always eager to test out new enrichment items. Lilac has a lively personality!

Over her lifetime, Lilac has learned and maintained more than 50 different behaviors. Many of these behaviors allow Lilac to voluntarily participate in her own health care, such as presenting her feet for radiographs, allowing keepers to file her toenails, and opening her mouth for inspection of her teeth. Every time she chooses to participate, she gets tasty treats for reinforcement! All three of our elephants, including Lilac, are trained to participate in voluntary blood draws, where keepers are able to draw blood from behind the ear. These have always given us valuable information about the elephants’ health, but this year, Lilac’s blood is contributing to a global cause.


Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a naturally occurring virus in elephants, both in their natural range and in zoos. EEHV usually remains latent, but when EEHV becomes active, it can cause hemorrhagic disease in susceptible elephants. Many elephants are able to fight the virus on their own, but calves are the most susceptible to EEHV after they have been weaned, since they are not being protected by their mother’s antibodies.

There is currently no known cure, but knowledge from ongoing research has evolved and improved the treatment of EEHV. Currently, elephants can potentially recover if diagnosed and treated early. Our elephants here at Seneca Park Zoo are at low risk due to their age, but our Zoo is still able to contribute to the cause. Seneca Park Zoo collects elephant plasma to contribute to an “elephant blood bank” that is maintained by an alliance of zoos housing elephants that are able to collect plasma. There is currently no known cure for EEHV, but donated plasma can be used for research or to treat this virus in other elephants. This year, Lilac became a first-time plasma donor, and she did a great job!

She was patient with her keepers and veterinary staff, and she appeared to enjoy all the attention and variety of food treats. Because Lilac has a strong foundation with her voluntary medical behaviors, she is able to help other elephants around the world.

– Zoo Keeper Morgan Saidian

Lilac's "Birthday Cake" Enrichment

Masai Giraffe Kipenzi Turns 6!

Kipenzi is currently the oldest giraffe in our care at Seneca Park Zoo, and turns 6 this year!

Originally born at the Toledo Zoo on April 3rd 2017, she made her SPZ debut in August of 2018 and was the first member of our giraffe herd. She quickly won the hearts of her keepers and earned herself several nicknames, including Kippy, Kip, and Kip Kip Hooray!

Soon after her arrival she was joined by herdmates Iggy and Parker, creating SPZ’s first official tower (giraffe herd). Kippy is the friendliest of our giraffes and likes people watching almost as much as she loves smelling her keepers’ pants and shoes. She can often be seen at the feed deck during the summer months participating in our giraffe feed experience, and likes to keep the exhibit looking nice by eating leaves off the ground in her spare time.

She has also been a wonderful aunt to our baby Olmsted, and assists Iggy in checking up on him to make sure he is behaving.

Kippy also enjoys her training sessions, she has been taught to stand on our scale so we can check her weight (over 1,400 lbs.!) and she has learned to voluntarily put her foot up on cue so a blood sample can be taken to ensure she is in good health.

Of course, training a giraffe is no easy task, but Kippy is usually willing to try her best in exchange for some tasty carrot sticks. Kipenzi has been an amazing addition to SPZ and we are hopeful she will be with us for many years to come.

She can be easily identified by her ossicones (similar to horns), which curve in towards each other, creating a heart shape in-between. Her spots are also a bit darker in color than Iggy’s. 

We hope you take a minute to stop by and say hello to Kippy on your next visit  to the Zoo and wish her a happy birthday!
– Zoo Keeper Maggie Kinsella 

African Elephant Genny C Turns 45!

Genny C is one of our many beloved residents here at Seneca Park Zoo. She is the oldest of our three African elephants, just ahead of Lilac (44) and Moki (40).

Elephants are extremely smart and have many unique abilities. Over the course of her lifetime, Genny C has learned more than 50 different behaviors. Many of these behaviors help us with her daily care, such as lifting up each individual foot to file her nails or fanning out her ears for bath time. 

Especially important to maintain are her medical behaviors. These behaviors allow Genny C to voluntarily participate in her own health care. She is trained for a variety of voluntary medical behaviors, such as blood draws, foot radiographs, and opening her mouth for inspection of her teeth. Every time she chooses to participate, she receives many tasty treats as reinforcement. 

Genny C also knows a lot of exercise behaviors, including lying down and sitting. These behaviors help handlers assess how well she’s moving. Genny C has a strong bond with her keepers, and she is always an eager participant during training sessions. 


Elephants have strength to match their size–Genny C can even move logs! It is truly an awe-inspiring experience to watch her move one. Our elephants are routinely provided with fresh logs to move around on their own whenever they please, but every so often one will end up in a spot that is tricky for the keepers to move. That’s when Genny C comes in to help. She can quickly move the log out of the way, and we always have a yummy treat ready for her. It is her choice whether or not to help us move the logs, but she usually seems ready to lend a helping trunk. 

You may be surprised to learn that Genny C is also a very talented kickball player. During your zoo visit, you might be lucky enough to catch Genny C in action. We have a special ball that we can toss for the elephants, and Genny C can “kick” it with her trunk. Sometimes she can really get it to catch some air! Elephant kickball is a unique, mentally stimulating form of enrichment for our elephants. 

Over the years, Genny C has learned so many amazing things. Thanks for letting us share a few highlights! If you are looking for Genny C on exhibit, she is our tallest elephant, and she is very vocal. She can often be heard “purring.” 

– Zoo Keeper Morgan Saidian 

African Elephant Lilac Turned 44 – Happy Birthday!

May 3, 2022

African elephant Lilac celebrated her 44th birthday on Sunday! As many of you know, Lilac came to Seneca Park Zoo in 1979 as an orphan from Kruger National Park in South Africa along with Genny C. Lilac can be identified by her small stature and the hole in her left ear. If you also look very closely you can see that the hair on the top of her head is red!Because of her spunky personality she is typically the elephant playing chase with the other girls or trying to mess with them whereas Moki and Genny C. would much rather be napping in the sun or munching on hay.

Now considered geriatric, she has spent her years here winning over the hearts of many, including her keepers. The bond we each have with Lilac takes years to build as she is not easily swayed by even the best of treats, like bagels. As elephant keepers, we work daily on behaviors with each of the elephants to ensure that they can and will voluntarily participate in their own health care. This helps us keep them in the best shape possible both mentally and physically all while being proactive about any old age ailments that may arise.

Lilac turning 44 is a big deal in the elephant community. Nationwide, Lilac is the 4th oldest female African Elephant in conservation care. Genny C. is number 3! Because of this, we continue to strive to provide the best care possible to let all of these ladies live out their Golden Years in style!

On your next visit the zoo, don’t forget to stop by and wish Lilac a very Happy Birthday!

– Zoo Keeper Jenna Bovee

*Banner photo by Hanna Kaiser 

Holiday Recycling With the Zoo

Holiday Recycling Tips & Guidelines

The holiday season can not only be a source of joy but also a large source of trash! In the months between November and February, Monroe County residents generate the highest amount of trash and recyclables of the year due to high consumerism. When we are shopping for, wrapping, and unwrapping gifts, we should be aware of what materials we are using and how we are disposing of our trash and recyclables. The more materials we recycle and dispose of correctly the less plastic and other pollutants end up in our green spaces and water ways.

The Seneca Park Zoo Society has been focused on removing trash from these areas with help from local volunteers with our Community Cleanup program. Since 2017, hundreds of volunteers have removed over 10,000 lbs. of trash from all over the Rochester area, not only removing the trash but reporting on what items are found to get a better understanding of what items are most impactful.

The first Community Cleanup of 2022 will be New Year’s Day at Turning Point Park. This will be a great chance to start the year off right and give back to our environment by helping to remove trash in a park that borders the Genesee River. Large groups and people of all ages are welcome!

If you would like to join us, stay tuned for more in 2022. Check out some of the recycling tips provided by Monroe County’s Department of Environmental Services for some great ways to improve your personal sustainability this holiday season. By working together we can all help to make Rochester a greener, cleaner place!

– Dave Will, Lead Zoo Naturalist for Citizen Science

Happy Birthday to African Elephant Genny C!

Nov. 9, 2021

Happy Fall everyone! November is a very special month here at Seneca Park Zoo because it is Genny C’s birthday month! On November 1, Genny turned 44 and is our oldest resident here at Seneca Park Zoo. Being a geriatric elephant means there is more day-to-day care for her and she even receives regular acupuncture sessions to help her joints. Orphaned in Africa, she joined us in 1979 and has won the hearts of everyone who has met her ever since – especially her keepers! She is our tallest elephant and also has the shortest tusks. Another way to tell Genny C apart from the others is that she purrs – listen closely when you are at the elephant habitat and you may just hear her doing it! She truly enjoys spending quality time with her keepers – always ready to participate in a training session, especially if there are bagels, cabbage, or watermelon involved.Here are some of her keepers favorite things about her 🙂

“She is really sweet and a joy to work with” – Zookeeper Mike

“I love how she is patient with new keepers” – Zookeeper Hanna

“She is trusting and resilient” – Assistant Curator Lindsay

“I love that when she lays down to sleep she uses a tire pillow and that she purrs” – Zookeeper Kat

“She puts hay on her head and it looks like a hay hat!” – Zookeeper Jenna

Next time you come visit Seneca Park Zoo, come down to elephants and give our oldest lady a big wave and “Happy Birthday!” We hope to see you soon!

– Zookeeper Hanna Kaiser

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*Banner photo by Wayne Smith

Happy [Belated] Birthday to African Elephant Moki!

Sept 22, 2021

Summer flew by (too fast in our opinion) but in light of Elephant Week we had to take a moment and celebrate a special birthday that happened over it. In July, a favorite lady of mine turned 39 years old – Moki the African Elephant! Our largest lady, weighing in around 9000 pounds, loves to spend her day eating. She is a food connoisseur and every time we check on the herd, she always comes over to see if we have anything tasty. Besides being our largest elephant, a great way to tell her apart is that she has the longest tusks! Tusks are modified incisor teeth that continuously grow throughout an elephant’s life. In the wild, elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, which along with human-elephant conflict, is the major threat to elephant conservation. Moki is also our only elephant who knows a behavior to make a noise from her trunk and waves – it is very cute to see!Moki was orphaned in Zimbabwe and brought over to the US. She lived at a few zoos before joining us in 2015 and has been a loved addition ever since. Here are her team’s favorite things about her 🙂

“She’s very observant and always keeps us on our toes.” – Lindsay, Assistant Curator of Hoofstock

“She tries to communicate with you by showing you what she wants.” – Jenna, Zoologist

“She’s got the tiniest voice when she speaks. I also love her beach ball body!” – Tina, Zoologist

“Moki is always willing to participate with me when asking for behaviors.” – Mike, Zookeeper

“I love that her tongue sticks out when she’s sucking on treats!” – Kat, Zookeeper

Next time you are visiting the zoo, please give Moki a wave and let us know your favorite things about her!

– Zoo Keeper Hanna Kaiser

*Banner photo by Hanna Kaiser

Happy Birthday to African Elephant Lilac!

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 

Upcoming Zoo Camps for Kids on Break!

January 22, 2020

We know how hard the past year has been for so many and one of the most difficult things to deal with has been the lack of social interaction and involvement, especially for kids. We have just the thing! ZooCamp at Seneca Park Zoo immerses kids in wildlife, the environment, and the need to protect and care for both, all in a unique setting: the Zoo! Campers explore nature and animals, create projects, share ideas, and make new friends.For our upcoming Winter Break ZooCamp we have a really exciting ‘Around the World’ theme so each day will focus on a different continent or continents and the animals that live there.  Campers will learn and be tasked with activities like sorting out what animal is found in what part of the world. If the intersection of animals, maps and geography are things that your little will be interested, you won’t want to miss out on this camp!

Looking a little further down the calendar we have our Spring Break ZooCamp March 29 – Friday, April 2. Spring Break ZooCamp is Big Cat Habitat themed this year so each day is focused on a habitat and the campers figure out which cat lives there.  This camp has many different cat crafts, habitat learning activities and more! Rumor has it there may even be some ‘animal yoga’ and leap like a lion activities to get some exercise and maybe even go on a journey with the ever-popular Freddie the Fish!We have implemented safety protocols for ZooCamps, including universal face coverings.  Read more about our COVID safety precautions and register for a camp today!Learn More

The Unexpected Joys of a Winter Visit to the Zoo

December 31, 2020

As the temperature drops and the snow flurries begin, many people forget the Zoo as a safe and fun outdoor destination.   Winter is a great time to visit Seneca Park Zoo, and the experience can be quite different than that on a warm busy summer day!

Winter Zoo visits can be quite peaceful.   There are typically few people here, so the hub bub of kids laughing and crowds meandering is replaced with quiet.  There’s a stillness in the air.  But there is still plenty to see and do.  Here are some suggestions on making the most of your winter visit.A must-see on a winter visit is the animals of cold Asia. The snow leopards and red pandas, in particular, are quite active when it’s cold outside.  This winter, keepers will be reintroducing snow leopard Timila and Kaba for breeding season, so you could have the opportunity to see them together.  Additionally, if you haven’t seen red panda Willie, you’ll love spending some time watching him and Starlight as they enjoy the cold air.   The wolves and tiger are also typically quite active!

Another good stop on your winter visit is the baboon habitat.  It has recently been completely reconfigured (link) and the baboons are having a ball! The baboon habitat has a covered area where you can get out of the wind or snow as well.

Keep heading into Animals of the Savanna to meet the Zoo’s newest resident, white rhino Jiwe’.  Whether Jiwe’ is inside or outside, he’s fun to observe as well.  As a juvenile, Jiwe’ can be playful and curious.

With the smaller crowds, a winter visit is a great time to spend some time at the aviary in the Animals of the Savanna building.   See how many species you can count.  Marvel at the variation in the songs of the different birds.  Admire the setting, which was all hand painted by artisans.

Another great winter stop is the Rocky Coasts Gallery, which can provide a quiet warm-up spot.   Take a seat on one of the benches and be mesmerized by the graceful California sea lions swimming back and forth.  Watch the videos in the gallery which provide interesting background about polar bears and sea lions from our conservation partners.  And be sure to spend some time at the reef tank.  See how many species of corals and fish you can find.  The signs in that area can help you learn more about coral in particular.A winter visit is a great time to read some of the interpretive signage throughout the Zoo.  You’ll be surprised about how much you can learn!  The “Why Save This Species” signs are fairly new and particularly interesting. You’ll find them by snow leopards, eagles, giraffes, and more!

Another great warm up spot is the ECO center.  North American River otter Ashkii is usually swimming in the pool visible from inside.  Have you ever seen a hellbender?  These elusive amphibians camouflage in their habitat.  But with a bit of time and observation, you can usually find them!

A great way to end your visit is a hot lunch special from Eagle’s Landing.  Every day there is a home-made soup, and a lunch special. Ask at the counter or better yet, pre-order your meal here (specials are listed at the top) and it will be ready for you when you schedule it.  The pavilion is heated and provides a comfortable, sheltered spot to enjoy your meal.

As you head out, you can take one last warm up stop at the ZooShop.  Be sure to check out the “Live Sustainably at Home” section.   There are many great items for yourself or for gifts!

Give a winter Zoo visit a try!  We are open 362 days a year.  Be sure to get your timed tickets in advance, and please – fill out the survey you’ll receive after your visit.  We love to get your feedback.

*Banner photo by Elesa Kim