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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Washington Park Children's Zoo - Indianapolis

Indianapolis' first zoo opened in 1964 and exhibited animals until its closure and subsequent transfer to a new site in 1988. This facility first exhibited Asian elephants, before switching to African elephants. Generally speaking, only a single elephant was exhibited with a few instances of two for short time periods.

"Tumthong, a baby Asiatic elephant born in Laos and shipped here by air, was bought for the Zoo with the pennies, nickels and dimes contributed by thousands of school children."
Courtesy of Circus No-Spin Zone

Acquired from Laos by animal importer Henry Trefflich, a baby female Asian elephant named "Tumthong" ( or "Tummy" for short ) arrived to Indianapolis' new zoo roughly a week after its opening in April 1964. The following March, Tummy was joined by a second baby female Asian elephant "Kamla." For unknown reasons, in November 1966, both animals were returned to their dealer of origin, Henry Trefflich.

Courtesy of E. Finch, Flickr
Tumthong and Kamla were replaced the following spring by another young female Asian elephant Tumthong II. She resided in Washington Park until her death 13 months later in May 1968.

"Chimpanzees Babe & Mika ride on Tummy II at the old Indianapolis Zoo in 1968 ( Photo Jerry Clark )"
Photo Courtesy of
Both Tumthong I and II are listed in the North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant under a single entry, documenting an arrival to Indianapolis from Trefflich, returning to Trefflich, again arriving to Indianapolis for a second time and subsequent death. Numerous sources point to this as an error; these were two separate animals.

There seems to be a third elephant that carried the name "Tummy." This is extrapolated from various word-of-mouth sources. The Murray Hill records compilation states Tummy was sold from the Indianapolis Zoo to elephant trainer Bucky Steele in 1971. The late Wayne Jackson recorded that Bucky Steele purchased his elephant "Schell" from the Indianapolis Zoo in October 1971. These dates correspond to imply these are the same animal, presumably purchased by Indianapolis in 1968/69 following the death of Tummy II. Schell went on to a long, still continuing, circus career where she currently tours with the Tarzan Zerbini Circus.

Marie & Schell w/ Louie DelMoral, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Circus4Youth
Following the departure of the third presumed "Tummy / Tumthong," Indianapolis began exhibiting African elephants. The first, Jenny, is listed in the North American Regional Studbook for the African Elephant with an arrival date of 10/13/1971, two days prior of the reported sale of the zoo's Asian elephant to Bucky Steele. The Murray Hill records compilation state the 18 month old African was purchased from the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo for a sum of $5,000. The animal was renamed "Affie" upon arrival at Indianapolis prior to her transfer to Chicago's Brookfield Zoo in March 1979.

The Studbook lists another Afican elephant arriving nine months prior to the departure of Jenny / Affie. Kubwa was acquired in June 1978 from animal dealer Fred Zeehandelaar. She was joined six years later by another female African Ivory. Both of these animals were transferred to the new Indianapolis Zoo in the White River State Park in 1987/1988.

A plausible reason for Indianapolis to only exhibit one, sometimes two, elephant(s) at a time was due to its original purpose. Originally called the Washington Park Children’s Zoo, space constraints did not allow for too large of pachyderms to reside. It was a prevalent custom in zoos during the 1960s to 1970s to display baby elephants in their Children's Zoo section and, as worded by Toledo gossip columnist Don Wolfe, "the custom of trading in an automobile on a new model every few years has spread to elephants."

For More Information:
>> RetroIndy: The original Indianapolis Zoo" at, 05/07/2013
>> "History of the Indianapolis Zoo" at
>> "How a newspaperman's obsession led to the creation of the Indianapolis Zoo" at, 04/16/2014

For related ShowMe Elephants articles regarding the Indianapolis Zoo:
>> "Indianapolis Zoo" at ShowMe Elephants

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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.