How the Lincoln Park Zoo Murdered Tatima, Peaches, and Wankie the Elephants
How the Lincoln Park Zoo Murdered Tatima, Peaches, and Wankie the Elephants is a compilation of how this facility has murdered animals.
Chico, Peaches, Tatima, and Wankie
Chico was one of four elephants living at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now called San Diego Zoo Safari Park). All originally captured in Africa for a life of incarceration in North America, he, along with females Peaches, Tatima, and Wankie, had been there for around three decades. In 2003, he was transported to a jail cell in the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas, at about 38 years of age. He was “found unresponsive” the morning of July 10, 2011, by zoo-keepers, perhaps dying on July 9. Similar endings occur to many other elephants in zoos. No one knows how long Chico had been down or how he suffered before they arrived and ended his life. Although African elephants live in the wild until age 65, Chico was only 46, yet the oldest bull elephant in captivity in North America (dead, either the night of July 9 or the morning of July 10, 2011).
Chico’s story is the end of a tragic and disgraceful chapter in captive elephant history, but one that is in constant danger of being repeated. Already ailing, in April, 2003, three older unfortunate ladies, Peaches, Tatima, and Wankie, beautiful African elephants who had lived for more than three decades with Chico at the spacious San Diego Wild Animal Park, were inexcusably, incomprehensibly, and reprehensively moved by its officials to make room for younger elephants from that warm, sunny climate elephants to the frigid winters of the city of Chicago patronage-worker dumping ground Lincoln Park Zoo, next to blustery, ice-covered Lake Michigan, and did not live longer than two years. Animal welfare advocates referred to the transfer action by the San Diego Wild Animal Park as “just a death sentence.” The San Diego Zoological Society acquired Peaches in 1953 from a circus, and she remained at the San Diego Zoo until the Wild Animal Park opened in 1972. She had lived in the warmth of Southern California for 50 years before being shipped to Chicago! Tatima and Wankie, both born in 1969, were purchased from a private individual and brought to the park in 1971 before it officially opened. (One source states that a private individual brought Tatima to the United States from Zimbabwe in 1969; perhaps Wankie had the same journey.) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had written to the Lincoln Park Zoo director and begged him not to take the animals, stating they would “not last more than a few years.” They were ignored. The group wanted the elephants sent to one of two sanctuaries in the country where they would have been able to bond with other females and roam freely outdoors year-round. In the wild, elephants walk 30 miles a day. One of their former keepers in San Diego noted that placing the elephants in the Lincoln Park Zoo “is like me putting you in a closet.” After the ladies arrived in Chicago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals kept track of their well-being and knew their health was declining. This was easily predicted. The cold winters had forced zoo keepers to keep the animals indoors in a small-sized jail, with its orthopedically and medically dangerous concrete floors. When massive animals take a step in the wild, natural environment, the grasses, sod, and soil muffle the concussion that occurs when the foot lands. When walking on concrete or pavement, no such shock- absorbing effect occurs. The damaging effects exceed the orthopedic ones. When that force hits the elephant's body, the concussion is transmitted through the legs, and upward through all the organs of the body, rupturing their cells. This occurs notably among the delicate cells of the alveoli of the lungs. That is the source of the well-documented prevalence of deaths due to tuberculosis, a disease of the lungs, among captive elephants and other large mammals. As the many organs in the body necessary for digestion are also damaged, emaciation is also a common occurrence. Damage to brain
Remember Tatima (October 16, 2004), Peaches (January 17, 2005), and Wankie (May 1, 2005). Top: Peaches (left), then 52, seen with Wankie, her 33-year-old companion, in 2002 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park where they had resided together with others for more than 30 years. Bottom: The two in jail at the corrupt and frigid Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
tissues results in dementia. Ruptured capillaries results in internal bleeding and anemia.
Tatima arrived with a crippling left rear leg injury, which left the leg badly swollen. She was apparently never treated while in Chicago. As the social outsider, a common occurrence when placing three elephants together, Tatima was shunned. Wankie spent all of her days at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Crematorium neurotically swaying and bobbing from side to side in her cramped, shared space. All three ladies suffered significant weight loss residing in their cramped cell. Tatima died on October 16, 2004, like Chico found collapsed on the floor when the zoo-keepers arrived in the morning, from what the zoo claimed was a tuberculosis-like bacterium. This claim was later shown to have been a blatant fabrication. Tatima was only 35 when she died, half an elephant's natural up to 70-year lifespan. With this event, activists renewed expressing their complaints and concerns. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stated that Peaches and Wankie were doomed if the zoo didn’t do the right thing and move them out of Chicago to a proper sanctuary. One prominent activist wrote the mayor and city council trying to use her fame to force them to relocate Peaches and Wankie to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. She was ignored; in Chicago revenues take far greater precedence than animal welfare. All protestations to the cash-hungry political patronage-polluted workers who run this concentration camp for animals were ignored. The Lincoln Park Zoo took no action to send Peaches and Wankie to a more suitable habitat. Peaches died only three months later, on January 17, 2005, due to “old age” according to the Lincoln Park Zoo’s miscreant inept politically-connected public relations spokeswoman, although Peaches was only 55. She, too, was found in the morning lying on the floor of her cell, her eyes unfocused and her breathing labored. The cognitive-challenged public relations director, a political appointee unequipped for any real job, said the outrageous, as expected if she wanted to keep her job, that cold weather and exercise factors had “no bearing” on the premature deaths of Tatima and Peaches.
Wankie had lost everything. She had lost her wild family. She had lost her daughter, Moja, at the age of 1 year, 5 months, when Moja was shipped off from San Diego to the Pittsburgh Zoo. She had lost her family in San Diego, and now she had lost her two sisters. The only thing left for her to lose was her life. Her health declined over the next couple months
Elephant and animal welfare activists, including this author, demanded that the sole surviving girl, Wankie, be transferred to a warm-weather sanctuary immediately. Her former trainer in San Diego demanded her removal, stating “Wankie is going to be dead in probably three weeks if they don’t get her out of here.” During this ensuing uproar, however, the emotionally-traumatized Wankie was secretly loaded onto a truck during a frigid night late in April, 2005, and shipped to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. This inexcusable act was committed despite Wankie’s recovering from colic, a condition so painful that it causes an elephant to collapse. Poor Wankie was seen kneeling in the truck, a life-threatening situation, near the midway point of the non-stop 22-hour, 1400 mile trip, in freezing temperatures in the unheated truck. She had collapsed in the van.
After one more stop, the decision to continue driving sealed her fate, and her life was ended a few hours after arrival at 4:00 a.m. on May 1, 2005, at the Hogle Zoo, a co-conspirator in her secretive removal and murder. Staff reported they tried to get her to rise, but she was “deteriorating” and “in pain.” They ended her life. She was 36. (Some reports state she was dead on arrival.) A “final report” showed her death resulted from the same bacterial lung infection, acquired at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Animal Crematorium, that killed Tatima, combined with the “stress of shipping.” The San Diego Wild Animal Park and Lincoln Park Zoo treated these gentle ladies like garbage, pieces of used furniture.
From the years 1994 to 2016, at least 65 circus elephants have died premature deaths.
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