Winkie's Story
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  • Winkie was born in Burma in 1966. As a young calf she migrated with her family across the wilds of Southeast Asia. At approximately one year of age, she was captured and sold into the exotic animal trade, which brought her to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. She has shared her small zoo space since infancy with others, most recently an African elephant named Penny. During her time at the zoo, Winkie was managed free-contact-dominance, which is a standard form of elephant management. Winkie's response to being dominated was to lash out at new keepers being trained to dominate her. She hurt several would-be elephant keepers and visitors in her 30-year stay at the zoo, earning a reputation as a dangerous elephant. As result of an antiquated elephant exhibit, a lack of funds to renovate the exhibit in the immediate future, and a request by USDA to improve the exhibit or relocate the elephants, the Henry Vilas Zoo decided it would be in the best interest of their elephants and staff to place Winkie in another institution. After thoroughly investigating the options, the difficult decision was made. Penny and Winkie were separated. Penny, being young and reproductively viable was sent to a facility where she would be bred. Winkie was allowed to retire to the Elephant Sanctuary where she would not be bred. At 12 noon, September 12, 2000, Winkie arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary. She was immediately comfortable with the other elephants, sharing food and affection with each and every one. It is reasonable to believe that Winkie will mourn the loss of her friend Penny, but now she has six new sisters to share her retirement years and a great new world to explore.

Winkie makes a snowball.

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