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.
But while she gained back her weight and "started to show some affection," the Tokyo Shimbun reported that her unpredictable nature reemerged, requiring she be fed "at a distance." Last October, an English-language blogger named Ulara Nakagawa started writing posts about Hanako's atrociously cramped living conditions. She contacted experts in other countries and a petition was circulated to send Hanako back to Thailand, where she could spend the rest of her days in more natural surroundings and be with other elephants, which live in herds. The petition collected 300,000 signatures.