Elephants Everywhere: Treasure Hunter Series

Note: As the Zoo’s unofficial Treasure Hunter, Amy Stephens, solves mysteries, digs up lost history and hunts for treasure at the Zoo. She works in the Education Department and at the Patricia and Byron J. Gambulos ZooZeum. 

Like me, you may love reading mystery novels.  Most plots involved finding bad guys, family secrets and lost jewels.  Sometimes a missing dog, but not missing elephants.  

Do not panic, an elephant has not disappeared from the Zoo! Just the opposite actually—I’ve uncovered additional elephants!     

But wait, you say!  I know the herd well.  Asha, Chandra, Rex, Bamboo, Kandula and little Achara. Six elephants. 

True, but you cannot walk around the Oklahoma City Zoo without noticing that our long legacy of elephants has remained with us.  Since our first elephant, Luna, arrived in 1930, Oklahomans have had a love affair with these large trunked creatures.  We like them a “ton,” and the evidence can be found all over the place. 

Here’s where I’ve found “additional” elephants--and you can find them too:

Beginning Detectives: 

Baby Elephant Statues are found in two locations. One is located in Judy Memorial Garden and the other is in the Elephant Habitat next to the ZooZeum.   

The ZOOfriends Logo includes an elephant, which speaks to the importance of elephants in our Zoo’s history.     

Of course, it’s worth noting that you will also find all kinds of elephant art, information and elephant gifts at the ZooZeum, and in the Zoo’s gift shops. 

Intermediate Detectives:

Judy Memorial Garden was built in 1997 to honor the Zoo’s most famous elephant.  Judy arrived after 50,000 children raised pennies to purchase her in 1949. She was the most publicized animal ambassador in our history. The brick wall is built to her exact measurements, so if you stand at the base of the wall, you’ll get an idea of an Asian elephant’s size. 

The Pachyderm Building is home to the skull and replica tusks of African elephant, Timbo, who lived with Judy during the 1980s. 

Advanced Detectives:

Elephant Manhole Covers were issued in 1997 to also commemorate Judy. You’ve likely walked on them many times. Eleven are located in public areas of the Zoo. (The greatest number are in the Children’s Zoo area). 

Have you noticed the 8-foot metal elephant on display at the front entrance?  Probably not, unless you arrive early before the gates open, but an elephant is on the Front Gate

 During the day, the gate is rather camouflage against the stone wall.  Having an elephant at the Zoo’s entry point was no accident, because elephants have been a main draw for visitors for the last eighty-seven years.    

Next time you’re at the Zoo—do a little sleuthing on your own and you may notice other tokens of elephant appreciation.  The Zoo is an amazing place to be a Treasure Hunter.

– Amy Dee Stephens, naturalist instructor supervisor 

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