Captured in Thailand as a calf, Sissy first appeared in the United States on exhibit at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in 1969. By year’s end, Sissy was sold to the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, TX, to replace the zoo’s recently deceased elephant, Gerry. Renamed “Gerry II,” Sissy spent the next three decades as the focal point of the zoo, surviving a record flood after being submerged for a day and a half with only her trunk above water allowing her to breathe.
After a tragic incident involving the death of a zookeeper, Sissy was moved to the Houston Zoo, and later the El Paso Zoo. Sissy’s condition was videotaped and leaked to the local press. The El Paso community spoke out and the decision was made for Sissy to be retired to The Elephant Sanctuary.
Sissy arrived on January 26, 2000, joining Tarra, Bunny, Shirley, Jenny, and Barbara. Reserved and cautious at first, Sissy carried a tire with her for security everywhere she went, a behavior left over from the many years she spent alone at the zoo. Sissy soon began to venture farther out into the habitat, socializing with the others. After several weeks, Sissy was observed lying down in the habitat…incredible news, given that Sissy’s previous keepers had not seen her lying down on her own in years. A few months later Winkie arrived, and the two became fast friends. One day, Sissy put down the tire and although she periodically will interact with tires when used as enrichment, she no longer requires one for security.
Winkie and Sissy both came to The Sanctuary with reputations as “anti-social” elephants that would not be able to interact well with others. Their relationship and their place in the Asian elephant herd now indicates otherwise. The Sanctuary Elecams have recorded Sissy (and Winkie) splashing and swimming in the ponds located in the Asia Habitat, even in the rain, a stark contrast to the elephant who was reported to show signs of anxiety and fear around water, following her flood experience in Texas. In 2015, for the first time, Sissy allowed Caregivers to give her a shower with the hose, a favorite activity of the other elephants.
Sissy does not have full use and range of motion of her trunk. Records indicate that this may be due to a dental procedure earlier in her life. Even with her partially paralyzed trunk, Sissy is able to feed and water herself. When she is offered a drink from a hose by a Caregiver, Sissy will use her trunk to throw the hose up to her mouth. Sissy can also use her trunk to crimp the water hose to stop the water flow if she is not quite ready to drink.
Sissy has the unique communication style of flipping the end of her trunk back and forth to make a “popping” sound. This was first observed when she met her new herd-mates at The Sanctuary. Sissy’s “pops” are still commonly heard, usually when she and Winkie are socializing, or when there is some new enrichment device to interact with.
Sissy is recognizable by her long body, consistent with elephants from her part of the world. Her face and ears are covered with a natural depigmentation which gives a “freckled” effect. Her ears are large with a loose, rippling flap across the top. She is most often found exploring the “2nd Pipeline” area of the habitat or napping in the direct sun of the “South Yard” with Winkie nearby.