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April 10, 2008

On April 8, three years ago, Winky and Wanda arrived at ARK 2000 after a long journey from Detroit. Wanda was 47 years old with chronic foot and joint problems, and Winky was 52 and plagued with similar, painful maladies.

Wanda adjusted immediately to her new home and friends and has become the darling of the Asian crowd instantly gravitating to Minnie, Annie and Rebecca. Winky never really cared for other elephants except Wanda, and she was visibly shaken when Minnie approached her. She was always free to avoid the other elephants if she chose, and preferred the company of her keepers here, and her very loyal keepers and friends from Detroit who visited frequently and spoiled her unabashedly.

Wanda and Winky at Ark 2000.

In the past three years, Wanda’s chronic foot problems have cycled from improved to painful, and we have adjusted our routines, changed treatments and medications and tried to keep her engaged in fun activities. Today, although three years older, Wanda is still enjoying her trips out to the habitat with the others, long snoozes on a hill in the sun and grazing in the rich, spring grass. Her chirps, rumbles and banging on the pipes reverberate through the barn every evening when she comes in, and her feet are back to quite improved. At 50, Wanda is still perky.

At 56, Winky was showing her age, and during the days leading up to April 7, we had been on alert, sensing the dreadful imminence of her passing. Someone was with her constantly, and her favorite treats of popcorn, Fruit Loops, blueberry bagels, watermelon, pineapple and fresh grass were stuffed into boxes and paper bags for her consumption every two or three hours. Warm baths, which she had always shunned, became a great pleasure for her; her arthritis had taken its toll and the warm water soothed her aching joints. She now moved very slowly and carefully, pausing to rest frequently and leaning far back on her hindquarters, shifting her weight before she moved on.

We increased her pain medication, and were grappling with the issues surrounding her quality of life. Her appetite was good, and she responded to Wanda and us with pleasure, still playing with her street cleaner, balls and tires, but we knew she was approaching the end of this journey and the beginning of another.

APRIL 7, 2008

At 3:00 a.m., Kitty, our night keeper, called with the dreaded news that our dear Winky was sitting in a squatting position in the yard, unable to support her weight on her back legs. Ed and I raced down the hill calling for Annamarie, Tom and Brian to help us lift her off the ground. Dr. Ann Duncan, Winky’s veterinarian from Detroit who was visiting the two elephants, and two of our veterinarians were also awakened.

After attempts to lift her to her feet failed, we realized our sweet Winky was preparing to leave us. She was very calm, playing with sticks from a nearby brush pile and eating hay as we tried to position her. She rolled over on her side, resting her head on the brush and gazed at us with tired eyes.

Winky was euthanized as the sun began to rise, with all of us who loved her so dearly standing next to her. As she slipped peacefully off to sleep, she hummed the song that we always hear when an elephant departs, a farewell indescribably poignant as it soared across the yard and into the habitat.

Thank you to all Winky’s friends around the world who have sent condolences and donations of love. She was an indomitable spirit who inspired all of us who knew her, and we are better for having lived in her presence.


Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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