COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s 37-year-old African elephant, Malaika, was given a final resting place on Saturday after a years-long struggle with health issues.

On Friday night, Malaika was unable to get back up on her own, according to CMZoo. Trained staff, along with the Colorado Springs Fire Department’s Heavy Rescue Team, were able to successfully lift her with a specialized overhead lift, but she was still unable to stand.

“The outcome was one that we have anticipated and dreaded for a long time,” said CMZoo.

Malaika was humanely euthanized midday Saturday. She was remembered as one of the “sassiest” elephants in the herd, frequently carrying her favorite log tires or puzzle feeders when entering a new space, per CMZoo. Her keepers said their “one-of-a-kind” African elephant loved spending time with them.

“Malaika had a sweet and salty personality, much like her food preferences. Her favorites being jumbo marshmallows or salty pretzels,” said CMZoo. “Malaika had a strong, trusting relationship with her keepers, and will be deeply missed by all of her human and elephant friends.”

Herdmates were given access to Malaika shortly after her death to help them process the loss, stated CMZoo. She leaves behind 54-year-old Missy, 45-year-old Kimba, 44-year-old Lucky, 40-year-old Jambo and 40-year-old LouLou. 

According to the zoo, Malaika had an extensive history of mobility issues and chronic illness. Since February 2022, CMZoo had braced itself and the community for the possibility of losing their African elephant.

“She had some very bad days late that month, but her fighting spirit allowed her to bounce back,” said CMZoo. “Since then, her health has been up and down, but unfortunately, this was her time.”

More than 10 years ago, CMZoo decided to meet the demand for specialized staff and housing to provide end-of-life care for aging female elephants.

“We built what could be called a retirement community for these ‘Golden Girls,’ and with that decision, we knew we would have difficult days ahead,” said CMZoo.

Malaika was the youngest elephant in the herd but, “as with humans, sometimes age isn’t the most relevant factor in an individual’s health,” per CMZoo.

“We have been anticipating Malaika’s passing for some time, and we made arrangements in advance for a beautiful final resting place in the mountains for her, thanks to a generous donor who offered their land for this special purpose,” stated CMZoo.