Hanako, a female elephant at the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo, died in May at the age of 69. The news was widely reported because Hanako was a famous fixture of the zoo, where, according to then-Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, she “gave dreams and hopes to children,” a strange observation if you review Hanako’s long life.
A friendship gift from Thailand to Japanese children in 1949, the elephant did not adapt readily to her new home at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo. In fact, she killed two men, one a zookeeper, the other a drunk trespasser. Difficult to control, she was chained up and lost weight. Eventually the zoo transferred Hanako to Inokashira, where the head zookeeper took special care of her.
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