DEALING WITH THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
posted by Michael Chihak
Tucson’s new mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, has done the politically improbable only six weeks in office: He got a significant issue off his desk, calming for now a growing herd of angry Tucsonans.
The mayor announced a deal to move both of Reid Park Zoo’s elephants to San Diego, keeping them together as many Tucson residents had demanded.
As a native, Rothschild must know the perils of pachyderm politics in the Old Pueblo. The admonition that you can’t fight City Hall gets flipped around when it comes to Tucson and its elephants. City leaders have gotten their trunks caught in the ringer more than once over these giants.
Our latest elephantine episode was on the cusp of controversy when the deal with San Diego was struck.
For you newcomers, here’s an abbreviated history of Tucson’s elephant issues.
Our first zoo elephant was Sabu, an Asian male bought from a petting zoo when he was two years old in 1966. By 1970, he was a big brute, and his nasty disposition included knocking a zookeeper around.
That led the zoo commission to sign his death warrant. But a cacophony of trumpeting arose from the populace, and the City Council voted unanimously to spare him and instead put the zoo commission to death by abolishing it.
Sabu died in 1981, and his passing merited a top-of-page-one obituary in one local newspaper.
And did you know that in the 1970s, a circus elephant died in Tucson? Its carcass was claimed by scientists who wanted to watch it decompose. So it was unceremoniously deposited on the slope of Tumamoc Hill as a science experiment. There, it drew more curiosity than controversy.
Yes, we love our elephants in Tucson. Keep that in mind if you have your eye on local elective office.
Just ask Mayor Rothschild, who now has in his brief political career already successfully dealt with the elephant in the room.