Everyone Loves Bunny

Welcome to the Sanctuary!
Bunny in 1999 at the Mesker Park Zoo enclosure prior to moving to the Sanctuary

lke, Elvis, and Bunny
When Bunny was born, Eisenhower was elected to his first term in office. That was 1952.

Bunny was three years old when Rosa Parks kept her seat on a bus in Montgomery.

She was a youngster when Johnny Cash sang, "I Walk the Line" and Elvis Presley horrified parents.

Bunny grew fast, and so did the world. TV was in its infancy, and it became witness to the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, then Watergate.

While the world grew and changed, Bunny's world stood still. She was solitary. But she did have a few clues about the passing decades. While adoring fans watched her at the elephant exhibit, she watched them too. She saw the crewcut become the shag. She saw purple punk hair. She saw hippies become yuppies. She met Generation X when the whole generation was in diapers - long before they were given a label. Bunny witnessed bell-bottoms - the first AND second time.

At the Mesker Park Zoo, three generations at once have visited Bunny. Grandparents with their children, and their children's children. And they have "ooh--ed" and "ah--ed" over Bunny. And they felt like a family while they stood there—in the way that animals bring people together.

Retirement? It would seem at age 47, that Bunny is ready for retirement - to live her remaining years kicking around as she pleases.

But some of those who love her can't bring themselves to say "Bunny" and "retirement" in the same sentence. How can they let her go? It's unimaginable. They grew up with Bunny. To lose Bunny, would be to lose a piece of the city. To lose Bunny, would be to lose a piece of themselves.

Out of Asia
Where did Bunny come from originally? She came from Asia, where her home was the wild. Her life has been similar to that of most captive elephants. She was purchased as a replacement for another long-term resident of the zoo. And because she was a young calf, she immediately became the darling of the community. At a petite 500 pounds, her yard appeared spacious; but as she grew, her yard seemed to shrink. For a very short period of time, she was housed with an African elephant. Ever since, Bunny has been a solitary elephant (In the wild, elephants are social creatures and live in groups.)

My Aching Feet!
Several years ago, Bunny began to show signs of foot problems. Complications from foot infection is the number-one killer of captive elephants. Elephant feet are not designed for standing for prolonged periods on hard surfaces. They are made for walking on natural substrate. Elephants love to walk—miles every day. But most captive elephants don't have that opportunity. Too much time spent on concrete, restricted exercise, poor foot care, and obesity result in some of the chronic conditions that contribute directly to life-threatening foot infection.

Due to her foot problems, Bunny's wading pool was emptied years ago, and it has been dry ever since. If Bunny were to use the pool, her footpads would become soggy—and make her health problems more serious.

What Now?
Today, discussion is underway concerning Bunny's future. The Mesker Park Zoo is planning to expand and renovate, and those plans do not include an elephant exhibit. What then would happen to Bunny? Officials say Bunny would live at the zoo for her remaining years—and that could be up to 20 years. Then upon Bunny's passing, the zoo would renovate her area.

Another Solution
But the Mesker Park Zoo is considering another option. They have toured the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and are weighing the pros and cons of Bunny's retirement there.

Carol Buckley, the Sanctuary's director says there are significant health benefits. Walking on a variety of natural surfaces—as opposed to unnaturally hard surfaces—would be therapeutic for Bunny's foot health.

At The Elephant Sanctuary, Bunny would have unrestricted mobility—therefore, more exercise. She could walk miles every day if she wants to. And when she walks, her feet would feel the healing effects of sand, gravel, mud, dirt, grass and water—just like she would have experienced in Asia.

A Gift for Bunny
The Elephant Sanctuary is hopeful that Bunny will retire at their facility. Bunny has given decades of her life to Evansville. Now, the city has an opportunity to give back to her. It may be cliche, but sometimes cliches are popular, because they speak the truth so well—if you love something, set it free.

The Elephant Sanctuary offers protection, freedom, and fans—new fans from Tennessee and beyond. And the Sanctuary has promised to keep Bunny connected with her old fans—the people from Evansville who have loved her for years.

This piece was written by Nancy VanCamp, weather person for WSMV-TV Nashville and supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary. The information in her piece was gathered from officials at the Mesker Park Zoo and The Elephant Sanctuary.