A few days after Christmas 1963, state Sen. Don Kennard received a call from a U.S. customs agent informing him that his friend Bill Newbold, a State Department information officer in Cambodia, had sent him a baby elephant.
The elephant was in San Francisco, and a $1,400 shipping charge was due. The elephant was to remain in quarantine for 10 days at an additional cost of $38 per day. Unable to contact Newbold, Kennard called customs in San Francisco for more information, but no record of a baby elephant was found.
A return call from San Francisco informed Kennard that the elephant had been located and did not have to remain in quarantine after all, as only hooved animals had to be quarantined.
The elephant was on its way to Texas.
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Kennard, trying to raise the money to pay for the shipping, planned to give the elephant to the Forest Park Zoo, now the Fort Worth Zoo. When the elephant crate arrived at Kennard’s home, it instead contained a donkey, compliments of U.S. Rep. Jim Wright and Zoo Director Lawrence Curtis.
Wright hatched the elaborate plan after overhearing Kennard casually mention to Newbold, who previously sent a tiger to the Fort Worth Zoo, that he should send an elephant sometime. Wright began searching for an elephant.
Arrangements were made through the U.S. ambassador’s office in India to accept the gift of a baby elephant to the children of the United States from the children of the rajah of Kollengode, Kerala, India.
Ten-month old Shanti is shown here on April 5, 1964, with Curtis, left, and the rajah’s son Vasadeva Varma, who accompanied the 700-pound elephant to her new home.
The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries offer a diverse collection of materials on the history of Texas and the Southwest. Twice a month, readers get a glimpse of the past with an image from Special Collections. 817-272- 3393, www.uta.edu/library/spco.