Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

June 1, 2011

Wild Adventures’ Queenie the elephant dies

VALDOSTA — A one-time water-skiing elephant and one of Wild Adventures’ animals for nearly the past decade died at the park Monday.

Queenie, an Asian elephant, was 59 years old.

“We knew that Queenie’s health had been in decline for some time,” Wild Adventures General Manager Bob Montgomery said in a statement, “and we have been working with other zoo veterinarians to determine the best way to manage Queenie’s chronic health issues. Unfortunately, we had to make a quality of life decision (Monday) morning.”

Al Kordowski, director of zoological operations, said Queenie had been on public view until becoming sick Monday morning.

“If it is determined that any of our animals require treatment or care that they cannot receive while in their current location, they will be moved to another area off exhibit in order to receive that care,” Kordowski said. “In the case of Queenie, we were able to manage her health issues while in the elephant exhibit.”

On Monday morning, the park’s zoological operations team discovered Queenie in a weakened state.

“Due to her declining quality of life and chronic health issues, the decision was made to euthanize her,” Kordowski said.

Asian elephants reportedly live to 50-70 years old. Queenie came to Wild Adventures in 2003 to live out her retirement. She had lived a life far different than most such elephants.

Born in 1952, Queenie was considered to be one of the oldest Asian elephants in North America, according to Wild Adventures. “Queenie’s claim to fame was that she was known to be the world’s only water-skiing elephant.”

A few years ago, a woman by the name of Elisabeth “Liz” Dane visited Wild Adventures and shared more of Queenie’s history. Dane had been Queenie’s first trainer.

In March 1953, in New York City, Dane visited a pet store.

“I knew we were going to a pet store, but had no idea about the true purpose of the trip,” Dane wrote park officials several years ago.

She looked at puppies and kittens before spotting the elephant in the room: Queenie, 6 months old and weighing 250 pounds.

“Dad asked if that was the pet I would like to bring home,” Dane recalled, “and I, of course, said ‘YES!’”

For 14 years, Dane cared for Queenie. And they treated one another as best of friends. They played, but they also trained. As a circus performer, Queenie learned to water ski and play harmonica. She skied during the late ’50s and early ’60s.

By the summer of 1967, Dane’s father had passed away and she was preparing for college. The grown girl and Queenie parted ways.

Dane never forgot Queenie. She would one day learn that the old saying is true: Elephants never forget. Queenie never forgot Liz Dane.

In 2005, Dane tracked down Queenie to Wild Adventures. Dane shared the reunion with Yankee Magazine.

“I spoke her name and her ears went out. She smelled my hands and then my feet. It was as if we had never been apart. I cried; she stood there touching me with her trunk.”

Wild Adventures noted Queenie had a powerful effect on many park employees and visitors through the years.

“We are comforted by the fact that we were able to give her a great place to live out the rest of her life and are thankful for the time we were able to share her with our guests and our team members,” Montgomery said. “She will be missed.”

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