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Tacoma to Take Back Cindy, an Albatross of an Elephant for Park

Times Staff Writer

Zoo officials in Tacoma, Wash., are making plans for the return of Cindy, a 4-ton Asian elephant once characterized as America’s most dangerous, who did little to diminish that reputation during seven years at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Cindy will return to the Point Defiance Zoo by fall after leaving the Wild Animal Park, where last month she broke the collarbone of one of her keepers with a slap from her trunk.

The contract between Port Defiance and the Wild Animal Park expired in December, but Tacoma officials said that, before the construction of a new $1.5-million elephant center, they lacked the expertise and the facilities to handle Cindy.

The center apparently can’t open soon enough for Wild Animal Park officials, who have had their fill of 24-year-old Cindy.

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Though Cindy has a history of attacking keepers at the park, officials say she is no more of a problem than some of the other Asian elephants, which tend to be aggressive toward each other rather than their keepers. Park officials have told the Tacoma zoo that they would like to get rid of Cindy as soon as possible because she has failed to be mounted by a bull and is using space that could be occupied by a willing female.

“We had expressed a desire to move her months before” the Jan. 31 attack, park spokesman Tom Hanscom said Wednesday. “We want to make sure she gets a proper home that can handle her. She has already become a headline subject.”

Two days after the incident, U. S. Department of Agriculture officials investigated and concluded that Cindy had attacked the keeper without provocation. She has since been kept with the park’s lone Asian bull to isolate her from the remaining eight Asian cows and the keepers. Hanscom said Cindy is known to like only one of the park’s six keepers in the Asian elephant yard.

Cindy, whose species is endangered, has never mated. In explaining her anti-social behavior and fear of bulls, zoo and park officials cite her early years in isolation in Tacoma. Officials there said they considered using artificial insemination to produce offspring during her time there.

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The new elephant complex at the Point Defiance Zoo will include a “squeeze cage,” a hydraulically operated device in which Cindy can be immobilized while keepers handle her, officials said.


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