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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wildlife Safari imports 1979

Wildlife Safari's Spring Newsletter discusses the arrival of African elephants to the Oregon drive-through in the 1970s.

With gratitude to Jesse Golden for sharing, "Wild Times," the newsletter for members of the Wildlife Safari, discusses the beginnings of said park thanks to naturalist and businessman Frank Hart.

In 1972 Frank was able to convince his employer, Walker and Lee, to develop 600 acres in Winston, Oregon. The site was ideal for a large reserve that could display animals from around the world in a natural setting. With rolling hills abundant in foliage and water resources closely resembling African and Asian terrain, a large variety of animal life could be supported. Wildlife Safari opened the next year.

Courtesy of Wild Times, Spring 2013

The article goes on to state in the 1970s, Mr. Hart decided the park needed elephants. He found a package deal in South Africa of 12 calves for sale for $64,000. On return to Oregon from picking the animals up in New York, 6 of the animals were sold, netting $64,000, repaying the loan in full and, in essence, 6 elephants residing at the park gratuitously.

Parts of this tale can be confirmed via news articles from the period, also linking the animals with a much larger group distributed world-wide. 25 elephants were originally captured by Wolfgang Delfs ( or Delfts, according to other spellings ), their family herd culled by population management officials in Kruger National Park. In the first shipment of elephants out of South Africa by plane, 15 elephants were bound for Frankfurt, Germany on the Lufthansa on May 18, 1979. 12 elephants from this shipment were bound for the United States, purchased by Wildlife Safari. 3 more animals were sold to zoos in Sweden and Britain. A week later, 10 more animals were to be shipped to the United States. All the animals ( 22 purchased by American buyers, 3 by European ) ranged from 6 months in age to 2.5 years.

With taking both sources into account, many of the animals seemingly can be identified by searching 1979 elephant transfers in the North American Regional Studbook for the African Elephant, but not without other questions raised. The International Animal Exchange, operated by the Hunt Brothers out of Ferndale, Michigan, sold 6 elephants in May 1979, shortly after the export date of Delfts' 12 to America. The North Carolina Zoo received four females on May 26 ( Zelda, Tinker, Nita & Cookie ). The Rochester Zoo in Seneca, New York, received two females on May 29 ( Ginny C & Lilac ). If these six were the animals Frank Hart sold on his cross-country trip returning from New York, the involvement of International Animal Exchange is brought into question.

Only three animals are listed arriving to Wildlife Safari on May 29 - the same date of arrival as the New York cows ( male Tanga; females Moshi, Nanda ). Six days prior, a female Mara was transferred from Wildlife Safari to King's Island amusement park in Ohio.

With the Studbook listings of these 10 animals, assuming they are all of the Delfts shipment, 2 are still missing. However, possibly Mara was transferred out pending arrival of the new imports during Frank Hart's trip east to New York. That would leave 3 elephants missing of the 6 reportedly arriving to Wildlife Safari in 1979.

Previous acquisitions
News articles announcing the beginnings of World Wildlife Safari boast herds of both African and Asian elephants. Records of five Africans can be found arriving to the Winston park prior to the Delfts imports of 1979. Alice & Tiki arrived together in early September 1972 from Vivo Animales, Texas. Sneeze arrived later that month from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. A fourth young African arrived at an unknown time but died in December that year. Five years later, female Tanish arrived in May 1977.

With these animals, by the addition of the three documented Delfts Africans, the herd of African elephants at Winston Safari would have totaled 7 - Alice, Tiki, Sneeze, Tanish, Tanga, Moshi & Nanda. This does not corraborate with the facility's recent newsletter stating Mr. Hart's additions gave the facility 6 elephants.

Moshi, Columbus Zoo, 08/2009
Photo © B Whitebread
Asian elephants also resided at the park. This is to be discussed in a later article at ShowMe Elephants.

Referencing the original story of 15 elephants shipped to Frankfurt, three were destined for European locations ( Sweden & Britain ). lists 2 possibilities. Nyoka is listed arriving to the Boras Zoo from Kruger National Park on May 20. Ndogo also arrived from Kruger to Boras, though no specific date is given for the year 1979. If these two animals are correctly correlated with this shipment, one is still unaccounted for, presumably purchased by an exhibitor in Britain.

10 More
As stated earlier, the remaining ten elephants were scheduled to be shipped out of Southern Africa from the original group of 25 a week following the first shipment. the identity and relocation of these animals is unknown.

More information is sought regarding this import group of animals.


>> "A Real Jumbo Cargo," The Leader-Post, 05/16/1979
>> "Baby Elephants Flying Jumbo," Star-News, 05/19/1979
>> "Passengers Big Babies," Toledo Blade, 05/19/1979
>> "Wild Times," Spring 2013
>> North American Regional Studbook for the African Elephant


  1. A news article documenting the arrival of the North Carolina Zoo's first elephant C'Sar in July 1978 states he was the first of five elephants purchased by the state, the four females to arrive later in the fall. C'Sar was acquired through the International Animal Exchange from the Toledo Zoo ( originally named "Flapjack" ). The subsequent four females did not arrive until late Spring the following year, also acquired through IAE. If the purchase was made for 5 elephants in summer 1978, perhaps the Hunt Bros. were expecting other animals to become available sooner than the South African cull rescues in early 1979. Those 25 captured by Wolfgang Delfts were held in quarantine for about a month prior to their export.

  2. From Brian Kohler:

    Akili would be one of those elephants. Dotty had her for years in Etna until she gave her to Charlie Sammut. The person you need to contact about these elephants is Russ Roach up at Woodland Park.

    Her name was Dotty Olson. Her and her husband lived in Etna, California. They got Akili from the safari. I have a picture of a young Akili at the park somewhere. I use to help them when I could with Akili. She visited the park when she could and loved to see how much the other elephants had grown. Akili was a small elephant with long, thin tusks like forest elephants in a way. She was a great elephant who was easy to train and get around. Dotty had no formal training just always wanted an elephant. She did alot with her. Dotty contacted me often and in the mid 90's we started looking for a permanent home for Akili. Dotty eventually chose Sammut's. She died a few years after arriving if my memory serves me right.

  3. Thanks Brian ! I found the following tidbits from the Facebook page "Akili the Elephant:"

    "Fifty-three years later, driving through Oregon for their 39th wedding anniversary, Ralph and Dotty stopped at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon to see the elephants. With a fair amount of sweet talking and a significant amount divine inspiration, by September of that year (1981) she brought home to Etna her own baby elephant, who she would name “Akili”, which in Swahili means “intelligent and smart.”

    "When dotty was 9 years old (~1931), her mom brought her a gift; a small set of porcelain elephants. She told her mom that day, "one day, I will own a real live elephant." Nearly 50 years later, in 1979, she and her hubby Ralph were driving home through Oregon. They stopped at wildlife safari to see the elephants. The trainer, Bill York, had just returned from Africa with seven rescued baby elephants. Dotty wanted one. Several months and a few hurdles later, they brought Akili to her new home it Etna."

    Both statements offer contradictory dates, but the second caption states Bill York returned from Africa with seven calves. This brings into question the identity of the six elephants above dispersed through IAE, if they were in fact part of this import group.


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.