Ruth & Emily-The Formative Years

Ruth, 26, arrived at Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford, MA.
Ruth, 26, arrived at Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford, MA.

Ruth was taken from her family in 1961 when she was just one year old, and by 1963 she was at Bensons Animal Farm in Hudson, NH. She was housed with Liz and Queen, who made it to The Elephant Sanctuary in 2006. There were also two other Asian elephants at Bensons in 1963: 40-year-old Betsy and Sunshine (age unknown).

 

A 1964 video of Bensons shows a young elephant, possibly Ruth, grazing in a wooded exhibit (at 4.55 min.).

 

Ruth was trained by Slivers Madison, a well-known circus elephant trainer. Slivers left in 1968, and his twin brother, Pinky, took over the elephant act. Ruth was sold in 1978 to Brian Watson, a man who owned a menagerie and used her in parades, children's parties, and commercials.

 

By all accounts Ruth was beaten by Watson, who was under investigation by various animal rights groups. When his farm was inspected in October 1986, animals were in such deplorable shape that they were confiscated. Ruth, too large to move, was left behind.

 

Watson stole back his animals, and then loaded Ruth into a a trailer with them. The trailer broke down in Danvers, MA and he left her in the trailer with the other animals at a waste transfer facility. Two days later she was found, still chained in the trailer.

 

 

Emily, 7 years old, at Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, MA.
Emily, 7 years old, at Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, MA.

Emily, from Thailand, was taken as a toddler at age 3. She spent her first year at Southwick Zoo before being sold to the City of New Bedford in 1968.

 

She was housed in an unheated buffalo barn, and after she grew too big to handle, was chained in a dirt yard. The zoo operated on a "pellet" system and when those ran out, zoogoers threw paper, plastic and lit cigarettes at her, just to watch her eat. She was also fed scraps of produce donated by the local A&P. (Standard Times, 1971).

 

By 1983, Emily  had attacked and injured a maintenance worker. Her living quarters were so substandard, the USDA ordered her sent to the Baton Rouge Zoo. She spent the next 3 years there and was trained by Allen Campbell.

Standard Times, 1986
Standard Times, 1986

By 1986, Emily's barn was completed and she was living "like a queen." Whether she thought so is another matter. Shown here balancing on two legs waving a flag in her trunk, Emily was forced to perform frightening and dangerous circus tricks.

 

While in Baton Rouge, Emily had been attacked by another Asian elephant, Savannah, and put in a fight-or-flight position with a larger African elephant by Campbell. Emily attacked the other elephant.

 

Despite this known history of isolation and aggression, the City took in Ruth, who was much smaller than Emily, as a "companion." The resulting pattern of aggression by Emily towards Ruth stems from these formative years. In the past ten years, Emily has attacked Ruth over 30 times, biting off 6 1/2" of Ruth's tail in 2006, and often ramming, hitting, biting and tusking Ruth leaving lacerations. These attacks were well documented by the zoo, yet they maintain Ruth is now too fragile to relocate.