Elephant Stories - Queenie

The true story of the famous Melbourne Zoo resident, Queenie, confirms that elephants are far more intuitive and insightful than their human trainers and spectators often give them credit for.

Queenie was a popular attraction for 40 years, giving children up to 500 rides a day, feeding gently out of their hands, and performing acts and tricks for their amusement. She was an Indian (or Asian) elephant, and adults and children alike delighted in her antics, queuing for hours to meet and interact with her.

As is the nature of many children, they would often tease the placid Queenie, taunting her with food and laughing at her frustrated attempts to take it from them. Many times, she responded by wrapping her strong trunks around them and rolling them gently onto the ground. One such occasion involved a group of about 15 schoolboys. Each would hold out their hand, filled with nuts and fruit. As Queenie extended her trunk, they would withdraw their hands, denying her of her treat. After a few of these bothersome encounters with the boys, Queenie surprised all of the onlookers. She approached the boys who had no food and held out her trunk. As they reached out to touch it, she would withdraw it quickly. Each boy came closer and closer, so that they too could play this game with the crafty elephant. That is when Queenie performed her grand finale. She filled her trunk with the dirty water of her pool and soaked all of the boys in one well-aimed spray.

Queenie's story ends tragically. After 40 years of carrying people along the same route, performing the same tricks and being fed from taunting human hands, Queenie finally reacted in the way her instincts dictated. Although a good-natured animal, her frustrations should have been anticipated, and her actions avoided. In 1944, Queenie trampled her keeper, Wilfred Lawson, to death. The keeper who had looked after her briefly had said that Lawson was particularly stern with Queenie, beating her behind the ear for disobedience. She may possibly have felt resentment and frustration, responding to her disposition of the wild. The keeper that had cared for her temporarily, Adolphus Stanley, had dubbed her one of the loveliest animals with whom he had had the privilege to work, and was shattered when he was the one required to shoot her after this incident. She was 48 years old at the time of her euthanasia.