Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Belfast zoo hunts 'elephant angel'

BELFAST (AFP) – Belfast zoo on Monday launched a search for a mystery woman who sheltered a baby elephant named Sheila during World War II.

The woman, dubbed the "elephant angel", housed Sheila in her back garden for parts of the war because of fears the zoo would be hit during the 1941 Belfast Blitz.

"The woman is something of a zoo legend," said manager Joy Bond, adding: "The pictures have been here a long time but nobody had been able to identify her."

Grainy black and white photographs issued by the zoo show the elephant calf with two women, but give no clue as to the identity of either, one of whom is believed to be the mystery carer. Bond said several people had called saying they could be the woman's neighbours.

"Sheila the elephant arrived to the zoo in the late 1930s, and lived until the early 1960s," added zoo chief Mark Challis. "If it wasn't for the care of this lady, that may not have been the case."

During the war the government ordered the killing of 33 animals including one hyena, six wolves, one puma, one tiger, one black bear, two polar bears and one lynx, due to fears they could escape during air raids, the zoo said.


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