I have cried during the composition of this post because Bertha and Tina were a huge part of my life growing up and I only today, while researching, discovered real information about them as captive elephants instead of the performers I knew (and loved).
Our family saw them at John Ascuaga's Nugget showroom in Sparks, Nevada, as the brief but exciting warm-up act for big headliners who performed there. Easter, however, was their day to shine as the main act and we attended many of those annual performances. In the early days, kids with parents gathered in the back parking lot to see Bertha and Tina up close before the Easter brunch shows. Their trainer handed out peanuts that we in turn fed to the elephants, a trunk-to-hand experience I could never forget. Inside the casino, brunch was a beautifully-crafted buffet just outside the entrance to the showroom. Once our plates were piled high we'd be seated inside and would wait with anticipation for Bertha and Tina to come on stage. They never disappointed, bless them.
An impressive database containing information about elephant breeding in America provides the history of documented captive elephants. While claiming to be the largest elephant database on the Internet, the site notes that it is incomplete. I can attest to the truth of that, since the death of a baby elephant at the Nugget in the 1970s is not noted. My post tomorrow will concern that baby elephant.
The elephant database also contains a Nugget Casino in Sparks page containing information about Bertha and Tina.
Additionally, each elephant has a separate page at the website.
I didn't know, dear Bertha, that you were born the same year as I, in 1951. No one told us that you were born in the wild in India, that you were captured there in 1956 and the "Tote-em-in Zoo" (now Tregembo Animal Park) somehow transferred (sold?) you to the Adams Brothers Circus in 1958. A man named Wilbur W. Deppe obtained you from the circus and had you from 1960 until 1962 when you were transferred (sold?) to the Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada. You performed there at the Nugget for 37 years until your death at age 48 in 1999. During those years you were joined by Tina, who arrived in 1979 and was transferred out in 1989, and by Angel from 1989 to 1999 (the year you died) when she was sent to the Fort Worth Zoo. It is common knowledge that elephants are extremely intelligent, that they form close bonds and mourn the deaths of other elephants. Who knows the kind of trauma you and Tina experienced when separated, and the mourning that Angel (who was the only captive-born of the three of you at the Nugget) endured upon your passing. The cause of your death in the vicinity of the casino is unknown, although 48 years is a long life for a captive elephant so I hope you passed painlessly, an elder performer, in the presence of those you came to trust.
I remember you when you were a young elephant, smart Tina, but certainly never knew that you, too, were born in the wild, in 1974. You were captured and wound up at Carson and Baines Circus, which, in 1979, transferred (sold?) you to John Ascuaga's Nugget. In 1984 you went from the Nugget to Riddles Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary held you until 1994, when (this seems strange to me) you were transferred (sold?) to the Miami Metro Zoo, then transferred back to the Elephant Sanctuary in 1997, where you died six years later at age 29. The database lists your death as being in January 2003, while also noting that you had a stillborn calf in March of 2003. Obviously, there is an error in the database and I am left to wonder if your death was as a result of medical problems related to your carrying or delivery of the stillborn calf. Yours seems a life of chaos. I hope you had tender care that compensated for all you endured.
The website database mentions the successful elephant productivity at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, of note because the zoo had an elephant birth on August 23, 2008 that has captivated the area.
The first births was [sic] in 1880 and 1882, but ut [sic] took long time until next births. From 1962 until 1994, 85 births were recorded, with a birth almost every second year. In 1994 about 50 of these were still living. Second Zoo generation offspring has been born in the most productive Zoo; Portland in Oregon.Rose-Tu, the mother elephant at the Oregon Zoo, at first rather violently rejected her baby which necessitated zookeepers separating them to protect the baby. While feeding the baby by hand zoo professionals slowly, over the next days, introduced mother and baby to one another in hopes that Rose-Tu would accept her newborn calf (vital for the survival of the baby, since rejected calves have a much higher rate of death than those nursed and loved by their mothers). As the media reported daily, the public interest and concern swelled. Rose-Tu did begin to nurse the baby, they have bonded, and all is well. The baby was named Samudra, or "Sam," as a result of 17,000 votes from the public. Samudra is Hindi for lord of the ocean, which seemed fitting as the calf loves his baths. You can read a press release about the baby and see a heart-warming photo of him standing next to Rose-Tu here.
Mike and I hope to see Samudra at the zoo soon, this coming weekend if possible since Monday, September 22 is Elephant Appreciation Day.