Friday, May 14, 2010

Requiem for a Baby Elephant

Irish Woman does volunteer work at the Louisville Zoo.  Every year, her fundraising group holds a blacktie shindig at the zoo, and the next morning the kids and I go with her to help clean up and break down.  After we get done, John the zoo director takes all of the volunteers on a behind-the-scenes tour of some new aspect of the zoo.

Several years ago, Mikki, the African elephant, had a little bull calf, who was eventually named Scotty.  After cleaning up that year, John had us all come up to the newly renovated elephant enclosure to meet Scotty. 

Scotty was like almost any human baby at about 6-9 months, even though he was only 6 weeks old.  He was curious, friendly, and gregarious.  In small groups of two or three, we went up to the bars of the enclosure, and patted him on the head and rump while he used his trunk to explore our hair, clothes, and anything hanging off of our belts.  It's amazing how dexterous that trunk was.  I was wearing a ball cap, and Scotty pulled it off of my head so he could smell it better.  He was also fascinated with my cell-phone.  Girlie Bear and Little Bear got to pet him and talk to him, and he was fascinated with the scent of the shampoo in their hair. 

Over the next few years, we always made a point to go to the elephant area to watch him play when we went to the zoo.  We got to pet him a couple of times more as we did things with the zoo, including letting Scotty check out BooBoo when he was only a few days old.

Even though Scotty rarely left the elephant enclosure, he had a lot of room to move around, and was forever exploring.  He enjoyed doing "elephant aerobics" every day with the keepers and his mother and aunt Ponch, the Indian elephant.  He also loved to jump in the elephant pond with his mom for a cool dip.  Every person I know who works or volunteers at the zoo loved him as if he was a favored nephew.  Every year for his birthday he would get a big birthday cake made out of fresh fruit, and seemed to enjoy rolling a watermelon around with his feet and trunk as much as he enjoyed eating it.

Countless visitors to the zoo were entranced by this little guy, and since elephants mature almost as slowly as humans, we thought we would get a decade of time with him before he was transferred to another zoo.

Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.

Wednesday evening, Irish Woman came home from a meeting at the zoo in tears.  John had come to the meeting and had tearfully informed her group that Scotty was gravely ill, and it was going to be touch and go to see if he survived.    We learned later from the news that Scotty had been euthenized when the veterinarians and keepers felt that continued efforts to save him would only prolong his suffering.

A light in the world of my family and especially my children went out when that little elephant died.  No matter how tired or cross the kids were at the zoo, they always perked up when they saw Scotty.  The family of people who work at, support, and visit the Louisville Zoo lost a precious member that night.

In memory of Scotty the Elephant, March 18, 2007 to May 12, 2010


Christina LMT said...

Awww, I'm so sorry! :(

Do they know what happened?

DaddyBear said...


They haven't announced anything definite, but he had some sort of infection, and then developed colic, which is apparently fatal in elephants.

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