Queenie, the crowd-pleasing water-skiing elephant that made waves across the United States for decades, has died. The amusement park star was believed to be 58 or 59 years old.
Born in Thailand and sold as a baby in New York City pet store, Queenie grew up with Liz Dane, a young child who later became the exotic animal's trainer and co-star, at the Dane family's New England home.
The family taught the Asian elephant a number of tricks, but none turned out to be more of a crowd-pleaser than the elephant's skill on water skis.
Balanced atop a pair of pontoons that had been fused together, and with Dane offering her guidance, Queenie took to the water all around the country and wowed onlookers with her grace and balance.
"When you typically see an elephant in a circus, you see a guy giving commands to the elephants and the girls are there for flash," Dane told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "But when Queenie and I performed, it was just she and I alone in the ring."
After Dane's father's death in 1965, the family sold Queenie to a performing elephant troupe. In 1981, Queenie joined Circus Gatti, where she continued to amaze crowds until she retired to Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga., in 2003.
Queenie was thought to be one of the oldest Asian elephants in North America and considered a pioneer for other water-skiing animal acts, such as Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel.
But due to her health issues, officials at Wild Adventures in Georgia made the decision to euthanize Queenie late last month.
"We knew that Queenie's health had been in decline for some time and we have been working with other zoo veterinarians to determine the best way to manage Queenie's chronic health issues," Wild Adventures general manager Bob Montgomery told WCTV in a May 31 statement. "Unfortunately we had to make a quality of life decision this morning.
"We are comforted by the fact that we were able to give her a great place to live out the rest of her life and are thankful for the time we were able to share her with our guests and our team members. She will be missed," he said.
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