Tales from the Zoo, Part Three
Years ago, I worked at the St. Louis Zoo. I started out with the hoof stock, but because I'm a big guy (6'3" / 290) they sent me up to the Elephant House. It is here where the two "most disgusting things" took place. 1. Twice a day, 4 of our female elephants would perform in the Elephant Show. They would go on stage, lift a leg, walk in a circle, typical dopey stuff that made the kids go "Oooooo!!!" But every now and then, right in the middle of the show, one of them would decide to take a shit. And when an elephant shits, it shits big. 7,8,9 maybe 10 huge turds the size of cantaloupes. And they don't come out in one big clump, they tend to fall individually, so if she's walking, she's dropping bombs every 4 or 5 feet. The sideline keeper was to quickly run out on stage with a shovel and scoop them up. This would inevitably get the biggest laugh and applause from the crowd. We'd scoop the shit, then stop and take a bow. Ahhh show biz. Well one day, the head curator of mammals decides he's got the perfect solution to the "stage shitting" problem. We would start "pulling" the elephants 5 minutes before show time. "Pulling" would require that a keeper with long arms cough (me) cough would put on a shoulder length rubber glove (yes, they make them for some odd reason) and slather it with Vaseline. Then this lucky keeper would stand on a stool behind the target elephant while a fellow keeper pulled her tail to one side. Then, without even a kiss on her lips, this keeper would slide his arm up her ass as far as it would go (up to your shoulder), curl his fingers and basically "pull" out as much shit as possible. She would just stand there patiently like she was at the elephant gynecologist. JEEZUS IT WAS DISGUSTING!!!!! Being a zookeeper wasn't all fun and games, believe me. 2. When your cat dies, you pick it up and go bury it. When a 3 ton elephant dies, things are a little different. We had and old cow (female) elephant named Marie. She was very docile, but very old. We noticed that she started to slow down on her feed. We kept very accurate records on these animals because they were expensive and increasingly endangered. Anyway, she started to get sick. One morning I come to work, unlock the Elephant House and before I could round the corner to the elephant cages, I could hear something was wrong. The other 5 cows were hysterical. They were trumpeting like crazy and inside this huge old concrete building, it was deafening. I rounded the corner and froze in my tracks. Marie was down. By down I mean she was laying on her side, which is unusual for an older elephant. They get weak as they age and it gets increasingly difficult for them to get up. That's why you'll see older elephants sleeping while leaning against a tree or a rock.