Animal Writes
From 1 August 2004 Issue

Elephant Leaves Tribute To Best Friend's Passing

Canadian Press

Monday, July 26, 2004 - Page A2

VANCOUVER -- In the middle of Tina's gravesite in the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, there sits an old, battered tire.

After two days of standing by Tina's grave at the sanctuary, her best friend Sissy finally left, leaving behind her favourite tire as a tribute to her friend.

"In the middle of the gravesite, there's elephant prints all over it and in the middle of it is Sissy's tire," said Carol Buckley, director of the Elephant Sanctuary.

"Sissy carries a tire around as her pacifier, as her security blanket . . . and her tire is left on top of the grave."

Tina, after living in Vancouver for most of her life, had been transported from the Greater Vancouver Zoo to Hohenwald in Tennessee last August to get help with a foot infection.

Ms. Buckley said staff were surprised by the sudden death since Tina appeared to be recovering well from her foot ailments. But in the days leading up to her death, Tina was having difficulty eating, missing her mouth with her trunk. She also experienced other motor difficulties. The sanctuary is still trying to determine the cause of death.

At 2:45 a.m. Wednesday with her closest friends Sissy and Winkie by her side, the 34-year-old Asian elephant died.

"She looked just as comfortable as she could be and she never in this time struggled," said Ms. Buckley, who found Tina sitting down in the barn early Wednesday.

"There was no sign of stress or panic, her eyes were calm. She set her head down, I was with her and Scott was with her. . . . It was probably a minute or minute and a half and she closed her eyes and she passed away."

For Sissy and Winkie, who lived with Tina in the barn, the death has been particularly difficult.

"They remained with her, touching her, caressing her," Ms. Buckley said.

"Winkie was pushing her trunk a little bit like, 'Wake up, wake up.' "

Remembered as a princess of an elephant with a big heart, Tina was friendly to everyone she met.

Born on April 26, 1970, in Oregon Zoo to an equally gentle mother named Rosy, who hailed from Thailand, and father Thonglaw of Vietnam, Tina stayed in the United States for a short time before moving to British Columbia.

A lack of space at the zoo led baby Tina and stepsister Judy to be moved to the Vancouver Game Farm in 1972.

"She never to my knowledge did anything to misbehave as far as being aggressive in any way," Hugh Oakes, part-owner of the game farm, said.

The mood was sombre at the Greater Vancouver Zoo on Friday as staff dealt with the news. Tina's long-time caretaker, Tony Guenther, was too upset to be interviewed, animal-care manager Jamie Dorgan said.

*Editor's Note: For the more in depth story of Tina's last days, see the following website:

Tina's Last Days

For those living in Tennessee, the Tennessee State Legislature has passed a Bill permitting the creation of an official Elephant Sanctuary License Plate with 50% of the proceeds going to the Sanctuary. Please check out the following website to find out how you can sign up for this. By law, one thousand of these plates must be pre-sold before the State of Tennessee will issue them to the general public - so your help is desperately needed.

Elephant Sanctuary Tennessee License Plate 

Go on to South Carolina Official Indicted
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