There isn’t a lot known about Cindy the elephant. Born in Thailand, she was exported to the US at a young age (likely too young to be away from her mother), bought by this person and that, and eventually wound up at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, WA.

Somewhere along the way, Cindy developed a foul personality. She could be sweet and compliant with those rare keepers with whom she developed a relationship, but with everyone else, she was fractious. Roger Henneous once described her as “the most dangerous elephant in America.” She may have been born with this inclination due to birth trauma, or it may have become cemented into her personality over time based upon how she was treated.

In any case, she eventually wound up at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA. In an effort to work with her in a way that would keep both Cindy and her keepers safe–what is now known as Protected Contact–PDZA renovated their elephant enclosure. During that time, Cindy went to live in California at the San Diego Animal Park. Later, when they could no longer handle her and PDZA’s facility was not yet finished, she lived at the Washington Park Zoo (now the Oregon Zoo) in Portland.

Fast forward to 2022:

Encouraged by my book ELEPHANT SPEAK, my friend John Houck (former Deputy Director at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium) is penning a memoir of his life as a zoo worker (keeper, curator, deputy director). I’m lucky enough to be one of his beta readers, and his manuscript is an extremely honest look at life behind the scenes among the animals.

Recently, he sent me a couple of chapters about elephants (my beloved Hanako once lived at PDZA). Among the footnotes was this link. Lest anyone believe that elephants are merely docile “big gray dogs” (as one keeper ironically said to me), they can also be dangerous. This video of Cindy on the rampage was caught by an onlooker. WARNING to those who are easily upset: This is chilling in the extreme. (You’ll have to paste this into your browser, as I couldn’t get it to cooperate.)

2 Comments on “Cindy

    • Will do … although that may be some time. The manuscript isn’t finished, and then there’s finding an agent and/or publisher. But I have faith in John’s book. It’s beautifully written.


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