Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Very Sad Passing of 'Boy'

The Very Sad Passing of 'Boy'

Boy was an Asiatic Bull elephant, born in approximately 1970. The records don’t say where, but we speculate that he was wild caught. He moved to Kyiv Zoo in the early 1970’s from Rostock.

Although Boy had been on his own for quite a few years, previously he had two female companions, he bred once with the first one.

Throughout the years Boy was at Kyiv Zoo the country of Ukraine changed greatly, notably it experienced the tragic nuclear disaster at Chornobyl, and also Ukraine became independent, leading to the problems associated with becoming a new country and the changes from communism to capitalism. As a city run zoo, these changes affected Boy, the zoo staff and all the other animals.

Boy was extremely special to the people of Kyiv; he grew up alongside them to become probably the biggest Asian bull in Europe (3.45 metres) and was a firm favourite with many, including the Mayor of Kyiv who was his Guardian and funded many of the recent developments to Boy’s enclosure.

Boy had a reputation as an aggressive dangerous animal; he killed one keeper and injured a few others.
He was plagued with health problems following tusk extractions due to breaking them. His feet were also of great concern. Because of these factors vets and other elephant experts travelled around the world to assist and provide advice, many giving their time and skills voluntarily. Boy had a great many friends and I’m so grateful to all of them.

When I first met Boy he wasn’t doing so well. The zoo was in financial trouble due to the economic crisis and other political issues. He needed help with his behaviour, nutrition and foot-care. I asked the elephant zoo community for help and it came flooding in. People gave me their time and expertise freely to help me redesign Boy’s enclosure, develop an enrichment programme and take him from a non-contact situation into a Protected Contact Operant Conditioning programme. Boy and his keepers took to this new system like ducks to water.

Boy was a special animal to me, I found him to be quick thinking, hard working and great to be around. He made me learn an awful lot about elephants. There’s just something wonderful about tilting your head up and gazing into the eyes of a huge animal and knowing that you both understand that when he puts his head or foot on the target stick he’s going to get a big reward.

Boy collapsed and died in the morning on Monday 26th April 2010. His death seems to have been very quick. Initial signs indicate poisoning, and known animal rights activists are suspected, a necropsy will be carried out.

Anna Westbury, Former Elephant Manager and Leading Biologist, Kyiv Zoo Ukraine.

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