What happened to the Bangladeshi elephant gifted to Eisenhower in 1956?
The iconic party symbol of the Republicans is the elephant and during the East Pakistan period, the then-Pakistan government sent an elephant – caught in the forest of the Chittagong Hill Tracts – as a gift for then-US President Dwight D Eisenhower.
The elephant, called Babe, was among 25 elephants caught in a kheda (a trap to capture wild elephants) in 1955. The following year, 1956, was an election year for the US where Eisenhower came out victorious.
I wrote this part from articles in Dawn's Young World magazine by the long-term director of the Karachi Zoo A A Qureshi, published in 2002 and 2006.
President Eisenhower was a Republican and he decided to run for a second term. The electoral symbol of this party was the elephant. The then-government of Pakistan arranged a kheda in the Chittagong Hill Tracts district of Bangladesh, then-East Pakistan, with the intention of sending an elephant calf to the country to show its friendship with America.
Some factual mistakes by Qureshi can be seen in his articles as in the first article, in 2002, he said that 14 elephants were chased in Chittagong and in the second, in 2006, he said that he chased them in the Chittagong Hill Tracts district and 25 elephants were caught – excluding two dead calves!
In 1955, a total of 27 elephants were trapped among which two calves died in a stampede within the trap. The herd had four cubs and two female elephant calves with 18 nails – eight on the front legs and 10 on the back legs. Those selected had pink palates.
People at that time believed that elephants with a pink palate were always docile while those who had black palates and a total of 16 nails were very bad-tempered.
Dr Qureshi noted in one place, the two elephant calves were on an airplane, and in another article, he said the elephants were on a ship in Karachi. Upon arrival, one of them was immediately sent to the US for President Eisenhower for which the US applauded Pakistan.
The second elephant calf was sent to Hirzina, a well-known businessman in Karachi. He donated it to the Karachi Zoo after rearing it for some time. The elephant was named Anarkali by the zoo.
When Anarkali was trained at the Karachi Zoo, she probably started carrying zoo visitors from the age of six or seven. It is certain from Qureshi's article that Anarkali survived at least 51 years in captivity.
Anarkali's date of birth is 1940 according to the http://www.elephant.se database and her date of death is 17 July, 2006. As such, Anarkali lived for 65 (!) years. The age of the elephant given here is not correct. However, I think all the information on this internet site is wrong as Qureshi himself mentioned in two articles that he himself chased Anarkali out of the Chittagong/Chittagong Hill Tracts forest in 1956. At that time it was four years old. Therefore, the age of Anarkali could not have been more than 51 or 52.
However, reports in various Pakistani newspapers confirm that Anarkali died on 16 July, 2006.
After reading Qureshi's article on Anarkali from Karachi's Dawn archives, the question arises as to what happened to Anarkali's companion?
After extensively searching the internet and with the help of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, I found "Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus): North American Regional Studbook" by Mike Keele and others (Keele et al, 2010, http://www.elephanttag.org/professional/2010AsianElephantStudbook.pdf) that was published by the Oregon Zoo. As of August 2010, the studbook found a total of 725 specimens of Asian elephants in North America in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Of the 725 elephants in the American Studbook, one unnamed elephant, serial number 25, seems to be the only elephant in the whole of America that arrived in the US from Pakistan in 1955.
Keele and other writers did not know for sure where the elephant calf first entered the US but they have confirmed that it went to the Metro Zoo on 1 May, 1955 in Miami, Florida. Before that, she was named Babe or Khukumani.
About a year later, on 1 September, 1958, she was taken from the Metro Zoo to the Walter D Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts. From there she was sent back to Metro Zoo on 17 December, 1977.
From there, on 6 June, 1985, Babe was sent to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York.
According to the Studbook, it is there that she passed away on 12 May, 1990.
Since no elephant other than Babe went to America from Pakistan, it is easy to assume that Babe was the companion of Anarkali in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. She lived about 10 years less than Anarkali.
Reza Khan is a wildlife expert and former head of the Dubai Zoo