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The Many Moods of Winkie (A Sad Elephant-Related Tale...)

Pet Cemetery.In 1997, Roadside tipster James Brooks provided this account: "One rampage not on your list occurred in the late 1960s in Madison, WI, and is a story fit for the Book of Job. A professor at the University of Iowa, learned a chair of literary criticism was about to be created at Iowa, and assumed he would sit in it, not considering these things go to outsiders. A literary hotshot got the chair and our man (whose name I cannot remember) went off the deep end, was divorced by his wife, moved to San Francisco, took a mistress. One day, while walking to his apartment, he saw his lady friend across the street, waved to her and when she crossed the street to him was struck and killed by an automobile.

"He left San Francisco with his grief and took a position at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he sought reconciliation with his wife. They met at the zoo, and while they were in discussion, their four-year-old daughter wandered away and was pulled through the bars of the elephant cage by an elephant with PMS, who stomped her to death. Needless to say the reconciliation was toast. I don't know what became of the elephant, but as Madison is a pretty liberal town, perhaps she's still an attraction at the zoo."

The child-killing elephant Mr. Brooks refers to was named Winkie.

Winkie arrived at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison in 1950 as a replacement for the most popular zoo animal in the history of Wisconsin, Annie the Elephant, who died in 1948 of an infected foot.

Area children collected $3,500 in pennies, nickels and dimes to purchase Winkie, and more than 500 kids witnessed her arrival. Birthday parties were held each year with 20-pound cakes molded from ground bran and oats, chopped apples, carrots and lettuce.

On June 28, 1966, Winkie grabbed the aforementioned 3-year-old girl, who was feeding her popcorn, pulled her through the bars of her pen and stomped her to death.

The killer elephant was quickly retired to Wildlife Safari, a tourist attraction in Winston, OR. But the trip to Oregon did not calm Winkie's temperament. In 1981, a young bull elephant named Tanga made the mistake of trying to engage her in horseplay. The 1,600-pound Tanga was sent flying through the air with a bat of her head, and broke two bones in his front leg.

Back in Madison, zoo employees fortified Winkie's old pen to make it impossible to pull a child through the bars. Then a replacement elephant was found in Burma.

For some reason, they named this female Asian elephant " Winkie Too."

Prophetic, because Winkie Too also had a violent streak and, in 1977, charged a zoo employee, knocked her down, then kicked and stepped on her. The employee managed to scramble to safety, but later filed a $4 million suit alleging that Madison failed to pay her permanent disability benefits for the injuries suffered, which required spinal fusion surgery (no word of schoolchildren collecting pennies, nickels and dimes to pay for her surgery).

The Henry Vilas Zoo was also the one-time home of Susie the Smoking Simian. Susie was a rhesus monkey who picked up the smoking habit when she was owned by a private family, and continued to receive cigarettes during her days at the zoo.

The latest Winkie attacked her trainer and vet in 1999. Animal activists demanded Winkie be moved from the zoo to a better environment, and in 2000, Winkie was transported to the 2,600-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

Winkie Too killed one of her female handlers on Friday, July 21, 2006, at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The 7,600 lb. Asian elephant either kicked or stepped on the woman, and also injured a male trainer who tried to help the woman.

Also see: Roadside Pet Cemetery | Elephant Burial Ground

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