Chester Zoo 'heartbroken' over death of Asian elephant Thi Hi Way

Thi Hi Way and one of her calves. Credit: Chester Zoo

One of Chester Zoo's oldest elephants has died.

Thi Hi Way was the long-time matriarch of the family herd of Asian elephants at the zoo. She had been living with arthritis which was linked to her early years spent in a logging camp in Myanmar.

Elephant care experts at the zoo had been giving her intensive end of life care but after an irreversible decline in her condition, the difficult decision was made to put her to sleep.

Thi’s exact date of birth is not known as she was born in Myanmar where she spent several years living in a logging camp before being rescued by conservationists working for London Zoo. After a short time living at London, she then moved to Chester in 1991.

The great-grandmother had given birth to several calves in her time, including Assam in 2000 and Anjan in 2018.

Conservationists have paid tribute to the “extraordinary legacy” she’s left on the endangered species.

Thi Hi Way was the matriarch of the Asian elephant herd at Chester Zoo. Credit: Chester Zoo

Director of Animals and Plants at Chester Zoo, Mike Jordan said:

"Generations of zoo visitors and the vast majority of our staff have never known a Chester Zoo without great grandmother elephant, Thi Hi Way. She was deeply loved and will be enormously missed. Thi was a giant within the global conservation community."

Thi had a big personality. She was a real ambassador for her species and, in many ways, a pioneer. A great deal of what conservationists know about Asian elephant biology and behaviour and the way that these remarkable animals live and reproduce has been learnt from Thi and her offspring. She has greatly enhanced our collective knowledge of this wonderful species and leaves an extraordinary legacy

Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plants, Chester Zoo

“Chester Zoo is at the forefront of the fight for endangered Asian elephants and Thi will always be remembered as an integral part of that.”


Staff at Chester Zoo say elephants are highly sociable animals and experts say the family group will go through a short grieving process before natural instincts ensure they quickly move on from the loss of Thi.

Chester Zoo are asking anyone who would like to pay their respects to Thi can email their favourite memories and photos to memories@chesterzoo.org and the zoo will upload as many as possible to a special area of its website.