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HOW DO YOU BUY AN ELEPHANT?
JOHN KRAUSZ, 1977
THE BUYING of an elephant is increasingly difficult for anyone, circus, zoo dealer, or eccentric. At present the Asian elephant, male and female, is on the endangered species list, making importation impossible and raising current costs of already imported animals to an unprecedented high. Only Southwick's Bird & Animal Farm in Blackstone, Massachusetts, remains in business as a major East Coast importer of elephants. While owners of elephants will claim that no two have ever been bought in the same way, the majority of animals are in fact purchased through dealers.
Barnum & Bailey Circus has purchased all its elephants either from dealers or small circuses that were going out of business. They would never buy an animal from a zoo, since it would either be badly trained or an unmanageable animal — nor do they bother to buy elephants from foreign dealers or governments, since it's too complicated and time consuming. All of their elephants are bought for performing purposes, and while they have Africans as well as Asians, they claim the Africans are stupider and harder to train. (One man can get an elephant act trained and together in six months.) In the past they have paid dealers approximately $7,500 for Asian elephants — off the boat from India — with permits provided by the dealers and no quarantine necessary.
The Bronx Zoo bought their elephants with the intention of breeding Asians in this country and thereby avoiding the problems of their status as endangered. In the fall of '73 they bought three females and one male — paying $4,600 per elephant — through Danny Southwick, the late Massachusetts import mogul.
They also have one African female, who, despite African elephants' reputation for being "harder to handle," has not been more difficult than their four Asians. She is currently on loan to the Knoxville Zoo — for mating — and on writing of this article she has just become pregnant (Summer 1977). No African elephant has ever been born in the U.S. until now.
Central Park Zoo has one Asian female that they paid $3,000 for in 1963, bought from Trefflich's, a large N.Y. animal dealing company that has gone out of business. Trefflich's, in turn, had bought this same elephant from Deitch's — a large animal farm in Fairlane, New Jersey, which is also out of business.
As for the dealers themselves, they buy elephants not only from countries of origin — Kenya, Thailand, India, etc. — but also from all of the same sources they sell to. Often a circus going out of business, another dealer, a small animal park, or private zoo will sell an elephant already in the U.S. to a dealer.
Before the Endangered Species Act of Dec. 28, 1973, buying elephants from the foregoing countries required having contacts in those countries, either trapper/ dealers or the governments themselves; applying for permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Fish and Wildlife Division); and paying for shipping costs. According to Southwick's, the average age of imported elephants was two years old, and they were generally less than fifty inches high. The majority of orders were for females, and all the animals arrived at JFK airport — one of thirteen approved ports of entry for wild animals. The shipping itself costs approximately $1,500 to $2,000 ($2.60 per pound: the elephant weighs 600 to 800 pounds without its crate). Their traveling accommodations from India included a wooden framed cage; their legs were tied to the frames for the 14-to 15-hour flight. From Kenya they traveled in wooden boxes with metal trays at the bottom (for droppings) and open board tops, fronts, and backs.
Southwick's Asian sources (which are no longer operational, now that permits for importation cannot be obtained) included trapper/dealers in Bangkok, Thailand, and the Delhi area of India. Their African source is a dealer in Kenya who owns a small farm, hires trappers, and ships animals all over the world. While the Asians previously imported arrived partially trained — not for tricks but for handling — the Africans are wild upon arrival.
The current prices — 1977 — are quoted at: Africans, $7,500; Asians (already in this country), $15,000. And delivery — from time of ordering — is usually upwards of two months.
In order to bring an elephant into the U.S., a permit for importation must be obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife Division, and while there is no cost for such permission, certain criteria must be met. These criteria involve inspection of the grounds and facilities provided for the elephant, the handlers' expertise, and availability of veterinary care. It is for this reason that individual parties find it impossible to receive the necessary permission, and importation is restricted to animal farms, dealers, zoos, and circuses.
While the passage of the Endangered Species Act (Dec. 28, 1973) has made it illegal or virtually impossible to import Asian elephants, some consideration is given to whether the animal was purchased before the bill was passed and to whether it was born in captivity or in the wild.
Africans — which do not fall under this act — still require permits and clearance through the Federal Register before being admitted to this country, and the government specifies a period of 90 to 120 days for such permission to clear.
Do Elephants Snore?
Mammal curator at the Bronx Zoo, Mr. MacNamara, said he couldn't tell because their stomachs rumble so loudly when they sleep, you can't hear anything else.
Central Park Zoo reports it's difficult to sneak up on an elephant to find out! They don't like to be caught on their sides and will wake when anyone approaches close enough to find out. But they do make a strange gasping sound ...CHAPTER 2
JUMBO & THE WHITE ELEPHANT WAR
W. C. THOMPSON, ON THE ROAD WITH THE CIRCUS (1903)
JUMBO was the biggest elephant ever in this country, and few are in on the secret that the tremendous success of the animal's tour was an accident of fortune," observed our elephant man. "He was an African animal and very stupid, but always good-natured. An agent of the big American circus heard that he was the tallest pachyderm in captivity and that London was anxious to sell him. The man closed the sale for two thousand pounds, with no conception of the money-making prize he was securing. The beast had been a pet with the children in the London Zoological Gardens, but the announcement of his purchase by Americans was received with no especial expressions of regret. It required two weeks to build a van-like cage for the journey by sea, and then keepers went to the zoo to lead Jumbo to the ship. He strode along all right until the gate of the garden closed behind them and then lay down in the street. It was a pure case of elephantine obstinacy, and the animal wouldn't budge. There he measured his length in the dust for twenty-four hours despite all urging and entreaty, to the despair of his custodians, who little realized the wonderful effect the incident would have on the owner's pocketbook.
"The English newspapers soon heard of the occurrence and promptly seized upon it for an effective 'story.' 'Dear old Jumbo,' they said, 'refused to leave the scene of his happy days with the children; his exhibition of protest was one of remarkable sagacity; they hoped he would continue to defy the Yankee showmen and remain in London; he was the pet and friend of the little ones and ought never to have been disposed of, any way.' The elephant when in repose or resistance rests on his knees, and one of the newspapers sagely remarked that Jumbo was in an attitude of prayer. The Humane Society was appealed to and someone made a sympathetic hit by telling how lonesome and melancholy was Alice, the abandoned 'wife.' The pathos of the thing was very affecting, on the surface, but a phenomenal advertisement.
"The animal finally got on his feet and marched to the boat. Weeping women and children lined the way. The circus owners were then alive to the possibilities and, concealing their identity, got out an injunction, 'in the interests of the London public,' attempting to restrain the brute's departure. Of course, it was dissolved, but it kept feeling at high pitch up to the time of sailing. I remember the Baroness Burdett-Coutts and a party of distinguished companions visited the steamer to say good-bye and left a big box of buns, of which Jumbo was very fond, for his use during the voyage.
"The story of the brute's reluctance to leave his young friends in England was broadcast and he became the feature of the circus, whereas otherwise he would probably have attracted only passing attention. It was his own fortuitous conduct and not the superior skill of the showman that made his circus career so profitable. Jumbo was killed by a train at St. Thomas, Ontario, in July, 1885. A dwarf elephant with him escaped injury, and the show made some capital by asserting that the big elephant sacrificed his own life in shielding his small companion. As a matter of fact, he was seized with another fit of unyielding stubbornness and wouldn't step down an embankment out of an express's path. He was never south of Louisville or west of Omaha. Matthew Scott was his keeper. He shared not only his bed, but his bread and tobacco with his charge. After the brute's death he followed the circus wherever it went, and during the winter visited almost daily the preserved skin and bones of his late companion.
"There was, of course, a Jumbo II, but he was nowhere near the size of the original beast. Harnessed with electrodes and other apparatus he stood in the middle of the Stadium at the Exposition Grounds at Buffalo, N.Y., on November 9, 1901, and gave the world a practical demonstration that an elephant can take twenty-two hundred volts of electricity with apparent unconcern. If the electric current reached his nerves he manifested no sign of it. Electric wires had been run from the Exposition power house to what was to be Jumbo II's death platform, and when the signal was given, twenty-two hundred volts were turned on. It merely tickled the beast. Jumbo II was unharnessed and taken back to his home in the Midway. Explanations made by the electricians were that the elephant's hide had the resistance of rubber and formed a non-conductor impervious to electricity. Others said the voltage was not sufficient.
"The white elephant campaign in the '80s was about the fiercest bit of circus rivalry I was ever mixed up in," he continued. "The Barnum show was the first to get one of the brutes. Their agent bought him from King Theebaw, the erratic sovereign of Burmah. The elephant was not white, but a leprous-looking shade of flesh color. It was really the first time one of these Albinos had ever been brought out of Asia. All that the king had done in the extravagant execution of his autocratic power was as nothing compared to the sale of the white elephant, and his subjects were furious. You see, the white elephant is a sacred emblem. It is addressed as 'Lord of Lords.' Priests prostrate themselves as it passes by and all the honors of worship are paid to it. A noble of high rank has to be its chamberlain. Its retinue is fit for a prince of the blood royal. Sickness in the sacred animal is ominous of coming evil. Its demeanor and gestures afford auguries, auspicious or sinister. For three years the Barnum white elephant made a lot of money for the show. Crowds flocked to see it, serene and placid and gently fanning itself with its wide ears, under a large Japanese parasol, native keepers meanwhile playing their queer musical instruments."CHAPTER 3
HOW TO BE A GUEST IN AN ENGLISH COUNTRY HOME
MRS. M. L. RAYNE, GEMS OF DEPORTMENT (1881)
A FAMOUS writer who visited our country several years ago, says the "American Queen," wrote a book about us, in which he declared that while an American knew how to be a host he did not yet understand the propriety of being a guest. It is probably quite true than an American did not in former years understand the severe etiquette which reigns in an English country-house. There the guests are expected to come at the hour invited, neither sooner nor later, and to leave precisely at the time when their term of invitation expires. It will be remembered that on the recent occasion of a tour around the world by a distinguished American general, he arrived at Windsor Castle, where he was an invited guest, some hours earlier than he was expected. There was no one to receive the company of foreigners. The queen was out riding with her daughter Beatrice, and never for a moment anticipating the arrival of her guests before the time specified in the note of invitation, had left no direction about receiving them at the Castle; and the court journal announced Her Majesty as looking "cross and sun-burned," when she alighted at her own doors, and found the guests whom she intended to honor seated stiffly in a reception room.
The reason of this English system of notifying guests of their expected stay and departure is this: A number of guests are invited with a certain formality for three days, and another company for the ensuing three days, which invitation is always so accurate that it specifies even if the guest is to leave by the "eleven train" or the "one train," as they express it in England. The great house is thus filled with a series of congenial guests from the 1st of September, when the shooting begins, until after Christmas. The leisure man who is a good story-teller, can sing a song, or act in private theatricals, is much in demand; and on the events of these country visits hang most of the incidents of the modern society novel. Dickens described the less stately hospitality of the English country squire in his "Christmas at the Wardles'," where the renowned Pickwick Club spent, perhaps, the most jolly week of which we have any account in modern literature.
But even jolly Mr. Wardle, or the class which he is made to represent, would be particular as to a certain etiquette. Mr. Wardle would expect all his guests to arrive at the hour which he had named, and to be punctual at dinner.
It would be better for us in this country if we were as particular about the duties of a guest. We are too apt to suit our own convenience about going to see our friends; and, trusting to that boundless American hospitality, we decline an invitation for the 6th, saying we can come on the 9th of the month, which is not in accordance with the etiquette of the occasion, since we should either go on the 6th or not at all. We should also ask our host to define the limits of our stay, so that we may not exhaust our welcome. The terms of an American invitation are hospitably vague: "Come when you can, and stay as long as you like" — a social word kindness, at variance with the rules of etiquette.
"Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest," is found in the Arabian as well as in the Latin poets. The Arab goes further: "He who tastes my salt is sacred. Neither I nor my household shall attack him, nor shall one word be said against him." One phrase is worthy of particular study: "Nor shall one word be said against him"; no stabs in the back as he goes his way. Unless a guest has been publicly objectionable, it is in the worst possible taste to criticize him after he is gone. He has come to you at your own invitation; he has stayed at your house at your request; he has come as to an altar of safety, an ark of refuge, to your friendly roof. Your kind welcome has unlocked his reserve. He has spoken freely, laid off his armor, felt that he was in the presence of friends. If, in so doing, you have discovered in him a weak spot, be careful how you attack it. The intimate unreserve of your fireside should be respected. And upon the guest an equal, nay, a superior, conscientiousness should rest as to any revelation of what particular secrets she may discover while he is a visitor. No man or woman should go from house to house bearing tales, and spreading foolish and injurious reports or scandal. No stories of the weakness of this member of the family or the eccentricities of that one should ever be heard from the lips of a guest. "Whose bread I have eaten, he is henceforth a brother," is another fine Arab proverb, worthy of being engraved on all our walls.
Much harm is done by the gadding and gossiping visitor through the thoughtless habit of telling of the manner of life, of the faults, quarrels, or shortcomings of the family under whose roof the careless talker has been admitted. Even much talk of their habits and ways is in bad taste. Speak always well of your entertainers, but say little of their domestic life. Do not violate the sanctity of that fireside treat whose roof-tree has sheltered you. Such is the true old Anglo-Saxon idea of the duty of a guest. It holds well today. We can not improve upon it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "How To Buy An Elephant"
Copyright © 2007 Skyhorse Publishing, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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Table of Contents
HOW DO YOU BUY AN ELEPHANT?,
JUMBO & THE WHITE ELEPHANT WAR,
HOW TO BE A GUEST IN AN ENGLISH COUNTRY HOME,
HOW TO RIDE A HIGH WHEELER,
IF ATTACKED BY A BULL,
WHOM & WHEN TO MARRY,
THE ETHICS & AESTHETICS OF EATING,
SIGNAL TO CRANES,
HOW TO LOSE AT CHECKERS,
THE ART OF MIND-READING REVEALED,
THE DANGERS OF TIGHT-LACING,
HOW TO MAKE SOUR KRAUT,
METHOD OF RESTORING THE APPARENTLY DEAD,
HOW TO CLIMB A LADDER,
SNIGGLING FOR EELS,
HOW TO KNOW THE BIRDS,
PROTECTING LIFE & PROPERTY : SAFETY ON THE HIGHWAYS WHEN TRAVELING,
FRIED APPLES FOR HUMAN FOOD,
HOW TO FLY,
HOW TO REMEMBER PROPER NAMES WHEN INTRODUCED,
HOW TO CAST A STATUE,
LEARNING TO SKATE,
PNEUMATIC RAILWAYS & RAPID TRANSIT IN NEW YORK CITY,
WALKING AND WALKERS,
FORSTER POWELL: THE CELEBRATED PEDESTRIAN,
HOW TO TAKE A SHOWER BATH,
HOW TO BE AN ICEBOAT,
FINGERSPELLING - SIGNS USED FOR LETTERS BY THE DEAF AND DUMB,
HOW TO USE CHOPSTICKS,
HOW TO HAVE GOOD POSTURE,
HOW TO RIDE A RAILROAD TRAIN,
HOW TO ERADICATE THE DISAGREEABLE SKUNK ODOR FROM CLOTHING & BODY,
THE BEDROOM CHAIR AS GYMNASIUM,
THE ELEPHANT AT WORK,
HOW TO SHAKE HANDS,