When Lucy the elephant celebrates her 135th birthday (135, you say!) in 2016* she won’t be wearing her crown as the “spokes-elephant” for her more crestfallen, warm-blooded, captive elephant cousins. In fact, Lucy the elephant never accepted that crown despite an earlier offer of assistance from the animal activist group PETA. For with that crown, or role of “spokes-elephant,” came far too many stipulations from PETA (Lucy’s owners said) which effectively had the 90 ton elephant turning her steel-enforced back to the suffering of captive performing / circus elephants. How can that be? Especially since their tales share a similar plight.
You see, in 1969 Lucy the elephant was facing an uncertain future. Her days on the Jersey Shore could have very well come to an end . Lucy was suffering and forgotten. She was no longer the darling that had once drawn enthusiastic crowds. Lucy had been neglected and uncared for. Yet Lucy the elephant continued to perform for her owners as the greatest tourist attraction around, even as her health (the very structure of Lucy exhibiting weather-beaten materials) continued to decline.
Eventually Lucy’s purpose was being questioned by her owners; her usefulness was coming to an end. For what good could a dilapidated, wooden and tin shingled elephant, built solely for the purpose of generating dollars for her owners, ( drawing tourists to her Margate, NJ home) what possible use could she be to them now?
Well, now you understand that Lucy the elephant is not an elephant in the traditional sense. Rather Lucy the elephant is a 90 ton American landmark, a roadside attraction, if you will, who survived solely by chance, when a group of humans came to her defense. They rallied to save this six story elephant who in her lifetime had served as anything but an elephant when she was used as a “restaurant, business office, cottage”, and eventually a saloon (shut down in the Prohibition era).
So for the very fact that Lucy had never lived her life as an elephant ,insofar as a roadside attraction ever could & considering her original intent, one would think or at least imagine that there would be more of a connection between the impasse that our circus/performing elephants currently face with the situation that Lucy the elephant had once found herself in.
For Lucy had found herself “threatened with extinction”** at one time. But her life was saved, albeit not by PETA as the “Save Lucy Committee” declined the conditions attached to PETA’s offer of a modest donation ($2,000.) toward the total cost of her rehab ($58,000.) Conditions which meant Lucy the elephant would serve as a platform (“spokes-elephant”) to spread the word that even today the abuse of circus & performing elephants continues (it does). (Lucy’s would have been required to wear a foam shackle around her leg, & in addition to “a teardrop being affixed to one eye” a large banner would have been placed across her back proclaiming the grim existence of such captive elephants.)
Again, it would seem, that amongst many elephants (yes, she is just a roadside attraction but she has since become an official landmark, too!), that Lucy could relate to the desperate situation our captive performing /circus elephants are in. It would seem that Lucy (i.e. her owners) would understand that human intervention is necessary to rescue these captive performing /circus elephants from their abusive owners (and these cases have been presented in the media time and time again.)
It hasn’t been that long ago that Lucy herself was rescued. And what a vision she is now; a titanic elephant amongst an Atlantic Ocean beach crowd. A testament to what is possible when the human spirit rallies together for one purpose; that of saving one elephant or that of saving a herd of elephants.
But Lucy’s current owners have wanted her vision to stay pure, free from the controversy that surrounds the humiliation and suffering facing our captive and performing elephants today.
It is understandable and yet the children who connect with Lucy the elephant could be educated by her in a gentle way. Children are wise as are the elephants. They can perceive, through observation & education, that pachyderms were not born to perform in a circus or for any human audience. Elephants were born to be elephants.
Let us hope that Lucy the elephant will, very soon, find a unique way to enlighten her scores of fans while ultimately bringing much-needed attention to those captive performing / circus elephants who are still out there forever waiting to be rescued.
*tradition has it that the events surrounding her unique birth on 20 July 1881 will be held the weekend thereafter; so her 135th will take place on the 23rd of July in 2016
**In 1969 “Lucy was threatened with extinction” after “her owners had their fill with her” and “no one really took care of her until the Save Lucy Committee came along” to rescue her. “Lucy’s owners offered to donate their elephant to the city provided the committee pays for moving her. A vacant lot owned by the city was ready and waiting but the gigantic and fragile elephant (90 ton)” was a feat to move. She was moved to her current location (“2 blocks north”) on 20 July 1970.
See Lucy the Elephant on her Facebook page
Lucy the elephant official website
Wikipedia Lucy the Elephant
The Daily Mail: “Lucy the Elephant Passes PETA Funds”
See photo of how Lucy the Elephant would look if PETA had made her a “spokes-elephant” for them in “Lucy Will Not Stump For PETA” at Shore News Today
Lucy the Elephant by PBS’s Bob Vila talks about Lucy’s structure
Weird NJ Visits Lucy the Elephant
Learn more about PETA “Peta is the largest animal rights organization in the world with more than 5 million members and supporters.”
Images: Featured of Lucy the Elephant in the Pines, Lucy the Elephant NJ Shore , Lucy the Elephant Blueprint , Lucy the Elephant in all Her Glory , Lucy the Elephant’s View of Her World on the Jersey Shore , Lucy the Elephant Vintage Postcard , Inside Lucy the Elephant, Lucy the Elephant Water Tower, Vintage Lucy the Elephant