Mystery solved of elephant in Belfast back yard
Friday 27 March 2009
A mystery Belfast woman who cared for a baby elephant in her back garden during the war years has finally been identified.
The ‘elephant angel’ was Denise Weston Austin, who was one of the first female zoo keepers in Belfast Zoo.
Along with her mother Irene, Denise took baby elephant Sheila in to her north Belfast home after it escaped an order to euthanize some of the more dangerous animals at the zoo.
Nine lions, two tigers and a number of bears and wolves were killed on the orders of the Ministry of Public Security because of fears that they would escape and threaten the public if the zoo was damaged in a German bombing raid.
Earlier this week the zoo - which is celebrating its 75th anniversary - launched a campaign to find the mystery owner and, through a surviving relative, have found more information on her identity.
Her second cousin, David Ramsey from Belfast, described her as an “eccentric” lady who lived in an exotic home in north Belfast called Loughview House.
Mr Ramsey also said that Sheila the elephant only lived with Ms Austin in the evening.
He said: “When the Head Keeper, Dick Foster, left work, Denise took Sheila from her enclosure, walked her a short distance to her house at Whitewell Road, and walked her back up to the zoo in the morning, sometimes stopping at a shop, the Thrones Stores, on the Whitewell road for stale bread.
“It was also known in the area that she took Sheila for evening walks. During the night Sheila slept in the Austin’s garage.
“Sheila was given hay from the family farm, which was of a much better quality than the zoo could provide during an era of rationing.”
Sheila managed to stay hidden due to the large walls which surrounded the house, and zoo staff were not aware of her second home until she chased a dog into a neighbours garden, breaking the fence.
Neighbours brought the incident to the attention of the Head Keeper, whereupon Sheila had to remain in the zoo. Denise continued to visit Sheila in the zoo, particularly at night during Luftwaffe air raids, when she rubbed her ears to keep her calm.
Ms Austin died in 1997, but her cousin said he believed she would have been “tickled pink with all the attention”.
This article is from The Belfast Telegraph
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...
£6 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a well e...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...