Kashin the Elephant

Sunday 23 November, 7pm

Kashin is a New Zealand icon and without a doubt, New Zealand’s most famous elephant. The Zoo – This Is Your Life pays tribute to this gentle giant.

Turning 40 this year, Kashin is one of the oldest and most recognisable residents of Auckland Zoo. She has been affectionately dubbed the Queen Mother. Elephant keeper, Laurel Sandy, says she thinks Kashin earned this nickname because she is such a lovely animal.
“She has been at the zoo 36 years,” says Sandy. “She covers a whole generation. People come and ask if it’s the same Kashin they remember from their childhood, and they are surprised and pleased when they find out it is. Kashin is so people focused. She likes to wander over and say hello and put out her trunk. People appreciate having her so close and having their own special moments with her.”

Kashin arrived in 1972 from the United States when she was just four years old. Her early years were lonely and touched by tragedy. Kashin’s first companion, an older elephant named Ma Schwe, died when Kashin was only 14 years old. One year later, a very cute three-year-old elephant called Koru arrived. Kashin was naturally very protective of Koru, so it was a terrible shock to both Kashin and her keepers when Koru died from a mysterious illness only three months after arriving.

Although Kashin has always had a strong affinity for human companionship as she was partially hand-raised, elephants are herd animals and it is thought that she yearned for a friend from her own species. She finally got the elephant friend she always wanted when Burma arrived at Auckland Zoo in 1990.

Sandy notes that Kashin and Burma took a while to warm to each other. “Originally, for the first few years, they didn’t get on,” she says. “In a herd, elephants are naturally related to each other. It is quite unnatural for them to come together and create a family with unrelated elephants. Like us, they have their own likes and dislikes, and we don’t always get on with people when we first meet. It’s a lot better now. Burma was cheeky and wanted to play all the time, while Kashin wanted to relax and eat. Now, Burma is more grown-up and she can entertain herself. We have programmes in place to keep her occupied. If they are worried or excited, they go to each other for comfort and security.”

Over the years Kashin has struggled with major health issues, but a new health regime in the 1990s turned her whole life around. Sandy believes many of the zoo’s older visitors understand Kashin’s problems. “I think they can relate to her. They can sympathise with her arthritis and when she is feeling low because of her health.”

The Zoo – This Is Your Life is a unique opportunity to learn more about the endearing story of a much loved personality through interviews with her keepers past and present, fascinating archive footage, stills and newspaper clippings.

Subscribe to our mailing list

About the author