June 28, 1966 – Madison, WI
Winkie grabbed 3-year-old Ruth Freeman, who was feeding her popcorn, and pulled her through the bars
of her pen. She lifted the squirming girl high into the air and, with one whip-like motion, slammed
her against the ground. Just to be sure, she stepped on her a few times.
The killer elephant was quickly retired to Wildlife Safari, a tourist attraction in Winston.
But the trip to Oregon did not calm Winkie's temperament. In 1981, a young bull elephant named
Tanga made the mistake of trying to engage her in horseplay. The 1,600-pound Tanga was sent
flying through the air with a bat of her head, and broke two bones in his front leg.
Winkie arrived at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison in 1950 as a replacement for the most popular
zoo animal in the history of Wisconsin, Annie the Elephant, who died in 1948 of an infected
foot. Area children collected $3,500 in pennies, nickels and dimes to purchase Winkie, and
more than 500 kids witnessed her arrival.
Zoo employees fortified Winkie's old pen to make it impossible to pull a child through the
bars. Then a replacement elephant was found in Burma. For some reason, they named this female
Asian elephant "Winkie Too" Prophetic, because Winkie Too also had a violent streak and, in
1977, charged a zoo employee, knocked her down, then kicked and stepped on her. The employee
managed to scramble to safety. Winkie then attacked her trainer and vet in 1999. Animal
activists demanded Winkie be moved from the zoo to a better environment, and in 2000, Winkie
was transported to the 2,600-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. In July 2006
Winkie Too killed one of her female handlers. The 7,600lb Asian elephant either kicked or
stepped on the woman, and also injured a male trainer who tried to help the woman.
Ruth Freeman (3)
Winkie, 23-year-old Indian elephant