She also was the herd's leader and disciplinarian. When barn-mate Donna challenged Clara's role as matriarch, Clara bit off her tail. "She is a very strong-willed elephant," said mammal curator Martha Fischer. "Sometimes baby elephants can be brats, and she knew how to keep them in line. She also is one of our more laid-back elephants. There is a calm, stable feeling in the barn when she is around. Some animals will get excited when a new situation comes up, but she has a cool confidence.
Fischer expects the herd will struggle with Clara's absence. Elephants are a social breed that is known to grieve. Seven other females and one male, Raja, reside at the Zoo. "They are going to have to come up with a new hierarchy," said Fischer. "It may take one or two years for them to adjust to the change. If we perceive they are feeling low, we will help them through that."
In turn, the elephants will help their keepers. On Tuesday, Clara's former and current keepers wept as they said goodbye. Yet they are consoled by the arrival of baby elephant Jade, born less than three weeks ago. "That helps somewhat, but still it can't take away how bad we feel," said Fischer, also crying. "We need time to grieve."