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Tusko is a popular name given to elephants in captivity. Several notable elephants have been given this moniker.

The Meanest Elephant[edit]

Formerly known as "Ned", this Tusko was a giant circus elephant captured at age 6 in Siam (now Thailand).[1] He stood just five feet high when he was unloaded from a sailing ship at New York harbor in 1898.

By 1922, he was touted as "The Meanest Elephant"[2] as well as "the largest elephant ever in captivity", though at 10-feet-2-inches tall (3.1 meters), he was seven inches shorter than Jumbo. Nonetheless, Tusko was a ton heavier than Jumbo and the largest elephant in North America since Jumbo. The tusks which earned him his name were about seven feet long (213 centimeters).

No other circus wanted Tusko and he spent some time in an exhibition road show, accompanied by his keeper and lifelong devotee, young George "Slim" Lewis. Tusko ended his days in the Seattle Zoo, dying of a blood clot on June 10, 1933.[3]

The elephant on LSD[edit]

"Tusko" was also the name of a male Indian elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo. On August 3, 1962,[4] researchers from the University of Oklahoma injected (human use involves oral ingestion) 297 mg of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) to him, which is over 1,000 times the dose typical of human recreational use. Within five minutes he collapsed to the ground and one hour and forty minutes later he died. It is believed that the LSD was the cause of his death, although some speculate that the drugs the researchers used in an attempt to revive him may have contributed to his death.[5][6][7]

Portland, Oregon Zoo[edit]

An Asian elephant by the name "Tusko" resided at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon from 2005 until December 2015. It is believed he was born in the wilds of Thailand around 1970, and was about 45 years old by the time of his death.

Tusko arrived at the Oregon Zoo in June 2005 on a breeding loan. He had successfully sired three calves in the past; two while living in Canada and one in California. Tusko had also successfully mated with Rose-Tu, the youngest elephant in the herd at the time. On August 23, 2008, she delivered her first offspring, a male named Samudra and nicknamed Sam. Sam is also the first third-generation elephant born in the United States. Zoo officials have stated that they were very lucky to find a bull like Tusko. He was a good match for the herd, providing genetic diversity as well as great social skills, experience with calves, a gentle nature with the females and positive role model for Samudra.[8]

Rose-Tu and Tusko again mated successfully in 2011[9] and her second calf, a female named Lily, was born on November 30, 2012. A controversy was sparked when the Seattle Times reported[10] that the new baby would become the property of Perris-based Have Trunk Will Travel, a company which offers elephant rides at fairs, zoos and weddings.[10] Zoo officials explained that although the breeding contract states that the zoo owns the first, third and fifth of Tusko's offspring, while the California company owns the second, fourth and sixth baby elephant,[11] there are no plans to ship the elephant to California. The plan has always been for Rose-Tu and her baby to stay together their whole lives as they would in the wild;[8] however, the legal details of the arrangement cannot be negotiated before the elephant is one month old. Eventually, the Oregon Zoo foundation did a fundraiser to purchase both Lily and Tusko for $400,000, giving the zoo legal ownership of both.

There were plans for Tusko to also mate with the zoo's other two females, Shine and Chendra, although they never materialized. Tusko underwent two surgeries to have his tusks removed due to risk of chronic infection. He was blind in his right eye.

In June 2014, the elephant tested positive for tuberculosis. An 18-month treatment began that year.[12][13]

In late December 2015, a decades-old right-rear foot injury flared up, forcing Tusko to use his other three legs and his trunk to bear weight. His right-front foot then became infected and swollen, and Tusko had difficulty standing and walking. He was euthanized on December 22, 2015.[14] Zoo officials said they did not know exactly how the injury occurred, however that it had happened while he was a circus elephant.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ HistoryLink Tusko the elephant rampages through Sedro-Woolley on May 15, 1922
  2. ^ http://www.pdxhistory.com/html/lotus_isle.html Image of "Ten-ton, 12-foot Tusko the Elephant with his owner, Al Painter"
  3. ^ "Death Takes Tusko, Big Elephant That Lived Stormy Life". Chicago Tribune. June 11, 1933. Retrieved 2010-10-16. Tusko one of the largest and most publicized elephants In captivity survived hundreds of death threats and other perils brought on by his temper ament only ... 
  4. ^ "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: Its Effects on a Male Asiatic Elephant", by Louis Jolyon West, Chester M. Pierce, and Warren D. Thomas, Science Magazine, December 7, 1962, pp1100-1102
  5. ^ http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/research/story/0,9865,770756,00.html A dose of madness in The Guardian UK
  6. ^ West, LJ, Pierce, CM, & Thomas, WD. (1962). "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: Its Effects on a Male Asiatic Elephant." Science. 138(3545): 1100-1103
  7. ^ Boese, A. (2007). Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments. Harcourt.
  8. ^ a b "Rose-Tu's baby and the Oregon Zoo: FAQ". Oregon Zoo. 4 Dec 2012. Retrieved 5 Dec 2012. 
  9. ^ Muldoon, Katy (20 Oct 2011). "Oregon Zoo: Asian elephant Rose-Tu is pregnant". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon: Advance Publications. Retrieved 5 Dec 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Berens, Michael J. (3 Dec 2012). "Portland's baby elephant belongs to traveling show". Seattle Times. Seattle, Washington: The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved 5 Dec 2012. 
  11. ^ Craig, Paul (4 Dec 2012). "California company: 'No intention' of taking baby elephant". Fox 12 Oregon. KPTV. Retrieved 5 Dec 2012. 
  12. ^ "Zoo to re-test elephant Tusko after inconclusive TB results". Oregon Zoo. June 3, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ The Associated Press (June 10, 2014). "Tusko becomes third elephant at Oregon Zoo to contract tuberculosis". KATU News – On Your Side. Retrieved December 22, 2015. 
  14. ^ http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/12/oregon_zoos_tusko_dies_after_s.html
  15. ^ Blackman, Teresa (December 22, 2015). "Tusko the elephant euthanized at Oregon Zoo". KGW News. Retrieved December 22, 2015. 
  16. ^ Statesman Journal staff (December 22, 2015). "Oregon Zoo elephant Tusko euthanized". Statesman Journal. Retrieved December 22, 2015.