Photo: Stephen teaching knot skills to delegates at an annual EMA conference. Photo Courtesy of Daryl Hoffman

The International Elephant Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of Stephen Eisele, a valued colleague and friend to many in the elephant industry for over 20 years. He was a long-standing member of the Elephant Managers Association (EMA), including serving as President and officer on the EMA Board of Directors. Stephen worked with elephants at a number of facilities during his career with elephants, such as the Santa Barbara Zoo, Marine World/Africa USA (now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany.

During a pivotal period in the evolution of elephant management, Stephen worked to prioritize excellence in elephant care, provide for elephant needs, actively help to create policy, and establish standards to raise the bar on safety and high-quality husbandry. He did this while working directly with elephants, eventually becoming a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Elephant TAG Steering Committee and an instructor of AZA’s Principles of Elephant Management I.

Although Stephen had not worked in the elephant industry for a number of years prior to his
passing, his legacy remains with the herds he helped grow through successful training and breeding programs, the many elephant care professionals he coached, mentored, and challenged throughout his career, and the high standards of elephant care he upheld. Stephen’s contributions to the elephant care community and elephants everywhere are numerous. He will be missed.

Article adapted courtesy of the author, Bryan Amaral, Senior Curator at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. Originally appeared in Gray Matters, a publication of the Elephant Managers Association.