The Memphis Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the
death of “Tombi,” the Zoo’s Southern white rhinoceros. Tombi died September 27
at the age of 41 after her health began to dramatically decline earlier this
As Zoo keepers and veterinarians began to notice her decline, she was put on
Zoo hospice care to closely monitor her health and keep her as comfortable as
possible. Out of the Zoo’s deep love for this animal, the decision was made to euthanize
her in order to avoid prolonging any suffering.
“Tombi has been at the Zoo a long time,” said Chuck Brady, Memphis Zoo
President. “She is a beloved part of the Zoo’s history, and was a wonderful
animal. She had a great life, and we’re proud of the care we gave her.”
was a wild-caught animal that resided in Virginia, before being brought to the
Memphis Zoo in April 1976. She joined her new mate, “Bacxa”, in the rhino
exhibit. Bacxa died in February 1990, and Tombi’s second mate, “Pendullah,”
lovingly referred to as “Mugs” died in July 2006.
time Tombi developed deep, trusting, loving relationships with her keepers and
veterinarians. As she learned, they respected her and she began to trust them.
was one of the first animals we were able to train to do standing blood draws,”
said Houston Winbigler, Assistant Curator. “That was not how it was done in the
old days, but she let us do it.”
Thompson, Director of Animal Programs, agreed.
being around her was special,” said Thompson. “For being so big and tough, she
was such a gentle animal. She loved to be rubbed down. She loved to be talked
fact, Tombi was somewhat of an indulged animal. Amanda Hadicke, Rhino Keeper at
the Memphis Zoo, remembered Tombi’s feelings about rain.
like rain or water,” Hadicke said.
“She loved to be pampered. We recently renovated
the Elephant and Rhino exhibit. She was inside for some time while we were
remodeling. She absolutely loved it. She loved having the run of the place, but
her favorite pastime was laying in front of all the fans. She also really
enjoyed sycamore sticks – the deader, the better,” Hadicke said.
developed a special relationship with “Tyranza,” one of the Zoo’s female
African elephants. They were neighbors for 37 years and developed a special
bond. According to Hadicke, Tombi would lay in the sand pit in her yard, next
to the fence that separated the elephants from the rhino exhibit. Ty would
stroke Tombi’s back with her trunk as she laid there.
could tell [Tombi] loved it by the way her tail curled up,” Hadicke said.
Tyranza strokes Tombi's back.
thing she loved was being a mother, and being a fierce one at that.
was one of the best moms in the Zoo,” Thompson remembered. “She was a great
mother, and really cared for her little ones. She was very protective.” So
protective, in fact, that she would let everyone know, including her mates.
of her babies would try to push the envelope with their father [Mugs],” Thompson
said, smiling. “And he would generally take it. There was one time, however,
that he got on her bad side. The youngster stepped over his horn, and Mugs
lifted his head. The young rhino was picked up, and Tombi jumped into action.
She charged him like the protective mother she was. Poor Mugs didn’t know what
Memphis Zoo family will miss its beloved “Tombi-rhino.”
Memphis Zoo will work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to acquire
Southern white rhinos for future exhibits. Visitors who would like to pay their
respects may leave cards and flowers at
the rhino statue of the Zoo’s front plaza.
About the Memphis
Zoo Southern White Rhinos
The Memphis Zoo has had Southern white rhinos in its collection since
the mid-1960s. They could originally be seen where CHINA is now, before moving
to their current home in the African Veldt.
Half of their waking hours is spent eating, while a third of their time
is spent resting. According to Hadicke, Tombi was quite the snorer.
About the Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tenn., is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 different species. Recently named as one of the top zoos in the country by TripAdvisor®, the Memphis Zoo has completed over $93 million in renovation and expansion since the early 1990s. The Zoo's animal inhabitants reside in one-of-a-kind exhibitry, such as Once Upon A Farm, Commercial Appeal Cat Country, Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek and CHINA - home to giant pandas YaYa and Le Le. The Zoo was founded in 1906 and resides on 70 acres in the middle of Overton Park. The Memphis Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Memphis Zoo, YaYa and Le Le are trademarks of the Memphis Zoo.