Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Elephants of Columbia

The Parque Zoológico de Santa Fe announced earlier this year the death of their 73 year old female Asian elephant, Lady, due to complications of old age.

"Zoologico Santa Fe (Elefante)"
Courtesy of Kmilocg,

Previously, no elephants were listed at residing in this Columbian facility. The news article cited states Lady's health began declining three years prior due to her advanced age. She originally arrived to the zoo in 1981, "rescued" from Circo Hermanos Fuentes Gasca, according to an article commenter.

Update 05/23/2012:

Another female Asian elephant 'Lady' is listed in the record books, acquired by the St. Louis Zoo in the United States in 1942. Jim Alexander explains the following on a post at Buckles Blog:
In 1942 two more elephants, Honey and Lady, were added to the show. That wasn't Vierheller's plan. He wanted to sell the three trained elephants and have Floyd continue to train new animals. Floyd prevailed and got to keep all five. Marian is listed as the "crooner" while Honey supplies the accompaniment. Floyd's routine had several "vaudeville" skits, baseball game, band, barbershop, and bowling among others. Floyd didn't have a circus background but he did some training for Clyde Bros. (Buckles fill in the blank) and trained an elephant for Arthur Godfrey. Honey couldn't perform in the 1953 show due to an arthritic foot and she died before the 1954 season. 1955 would be the last year for this group at the Zoo. A new group of eight babies was being assembled in California. The older elephants, along with a young exhibit elephant, Jill, were sold to Paul Kelly for $10,000. They left the Zoo on March 23, 1956 with Bert Pettus. Paul later told me they had TB and never left his barn." //Jim Alexander

"Zoologico Santa Fe (Elefante)"
Courtesy of

>> "St. Louis Zoo #1 (From Jim Alexander)," Buckles Blog, 03/15/2007

The question arises if perhaps Mr. Kelly sold these "useless" elephants to Mexico, a past "dumping" ground for many former circus elephants from the United States. Lady, an animal already trained, perhaps was sold to the Mexican Gasca circus family. The story would pick up in 1981, when she was reportedly 'rescued' from the show and transferred to the Parque Zoológico de Santa Fe.

The North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant estimates Lady's birth in 1937 before her arrival to the St. Louis Zoo from animal importer Louie Ruhe on 07/07/1942. Their departure date contradicts Mr. Alexander's (03/23/1956), stating she left for Paul Kelly's facility on 04/07/1956. Following the studbook's estimated birth date, Lady would be 75 this year if she were still living - a three year difference from the stated age of Santa Fe's recently deceased pachyderm.

This is only a theory and evidence has yet to be found to support such a claim.

Zoológico Matecaña De Pereira - Existing Records
There were only two elephants listed in residence for the entire country at, Africans Maggie and her 6 year old son Pablo/Zimbabwe, born at Zoológico Matecaña in December 2006. Matecaña's first elephant was donated from Zoológico de Chapultepec in 1968. The zoo's website states they exhibit both species.

Courtesy of

Zoológico Matecaña - Elephas maximus
Additional research finds that this first elephant, originally named 'Maria Isabela' prior to her transfer, coincidentally also died of old age approximately one week following the death of Lady in Santa Fe. Renamed Chava, the ten year old transferred south and lived singly at the zoo her entire life until her passing on March 18.

"Elefante Asiatico - Matecaña Zoo"
Courtesy of yermanos,

Zoológico Matecaña - Loxodonta africana
Matecaña eventually began exhibiting a group of African elephants as well. The male Pirinolo was originally acquired in 1993, rescued with a group of numerous other species from Hacienda Napoles, the extravagant estate of the late Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The facility was slated to become a medium-security prison, where nearly two dozen hippos continue to live and mate, some escaping six years ago to freely roam and procreate in the wetlands near the Magdalena River.

>> "Pablo Escobar's Hippos," The Circus No-Spin Zone, 07/24/2011

On February 28, 2006, the 11.5 foot tall Pirinolo killed a zoo veterinarian, goring him in the abdomen with his ivory during a routine examination.

"Elefante Africano - Matecaña Zoo"
Courtesy of pereirano1974,

Two female elephants and an adolescent male live in separate quarters from Pirinolo. A tuskless female arrived with the bull from Pablo Esobar's private animal park, along with another female (unidentified) which died in 1997. Courtesy of Peter Stolk, European Elephant Group magazine 16/2009 documents the arrival of the drug kingpin's former pachyderms, along with the arrival of a replacement female, Maggy, two years later. EEG names the tuskless female still living as 'King;' recent news articles name her 'Queen.'

"Elefante Africano - Matecaña Zoo"
Courtesy of yermanos,

The African elephant Maggy was donated by the Gasca Brothers in late 1999. She was the Maggi from the Mexican-based Circo Modelo, owned by the Fuente Gasca family. The animal rights extremist group P.A.W.S. describes the following event at Modelo:
October 24, 1999: Circus Elephant Kills Trainer in Bogota - A circus turned into a horror show for hundreds of spectators in Colombia when an elephant gored and trampled her trainer to death. Maggy, one of three elephants performing for the Mexico-based Modelo Circus, had just gone through her nightly routine when she suddenly turned on her whip-wielding trainer and wrapped her trunk around him. After tossing the trainer into the air, she impaled him with her tusks and then proceeded to stomp all over him on the ground. The 50-year-old trainer, Elias Mitrobich Garcia, died with his skull crushed on the circus tent floor.

Given the timing and location of the event, it seems Maggy's "donation" to the zoo was a reaction immediately followed the death of her trainer. A 2008 publication of the extremist group Animal Defenders suggests that a contract between the Gasca family and the Pereria zoo stated that "in the event of 'positive breeding results,' any offspring would belong to the circus." It does not seem any attempt was made by the circus to take possession of the animal.

"Ayer en la madrugada la tercera cría de Maggi, la elefanta africana del Zoológico Matecaña, nació sin vida."
Courtesy of

The adolescent male residing with the zoo's two females was captive born at the facility. Named Zimbabwe by school children, his birth was celebrated with great enthusiasm on December 13 in the South American country, boasting the first African elephant birth for Columbia. Before the decision of his proper name, the 220 pound newborn was first described as 'Pablo' and 'Escobar,' referencing the animal's 'grandfather.' At the time of Zimbabwe's birth in 2006, his addition was said to have brought the herd size to five (interpreted by Peter Stolk to be the three adult Africans, the newborn and the Asian female 'Chava.')

"El pequeño paquidermo Escobar, junto a su madre Maggi."
Courtesy of

Maggy was again announced to be pregnant and due to give birth in mid-March 2012. However, the zoo mourned the loss of her offspring during the first week of May. After 23 months of gestation, the 34 year old female delivered a stillborn fetus measuring "1.20 meters and...161 kilos" on May 6.

"nuestra familia de elefantes africanos"
Courtesy of Zoológico Matecaña De Pereira on Facebook

"nuestra familia de elefantes africanos"
Courtesy of Zoológico Matecaña De Pereira on Facebook

Further information is requested regarding the elephant census and history of this South American region.

For Additional Information:
>> "Elefante que pertenecía a Pablo Escobar mató a un veterinario,", 03/01/2006
>> "Nació en Colombia elefante "nieto" de narcotraficante Pablo Escobar,", 12/14/2006
>> "Murió la elefanta Lady,", 03/10/2012
>> "Murió 'Chava', la elefanta insignia del Zoológico de Pereira,", 03/20/2012
>> "Murió el hijo de Pirinolo, elefante de Pablo Escobar,", 05/07/2012


  1. The herd size of five could be the total of the zoo at that moment. (1 Asian and 4 Africans)

  2. I would question the 73. johnny

  3. Peter,
    Thank you. I agree and will update the above accordingly.

    Mr. Herriott,
    I do not know when the picture of Lady was taken. However, your skepticism of her age lead me to a theory regarding her original origins. Please read over the 'Update' I included above regarding the possibility she was a former St. Louis Zoo elephant.

  4. You can also add Barranquilla to the Colombian locations!
    This zoo keeps 1.0 African elephant with the name Tantor.
    He arrived April 25th 1992 together with two females, but they died in unknown years.

  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2012

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Anonymous,
    It is a hobby and, while I will not speak for everyone, I enjoy the research process. I openly welcome corrections and new information. I enjoy learning more. If you do not wish to share the enthusiasm and your knowledge then bug off. Do not hide behind monikers while you slander others.

  7. News from an animal rights extremist site shares the following:

    "In S. America, Colombia moved a step closer to an animal circus ban, when their House of Representatives unanimously approved a Bill which now moves on to the Senate."

  8. In 1958-59 I went swimming at Arthur Godfreys farm in Leesburg VA with an elephant named Margie after my Mom who was pregnant at the time.


I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.