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1941

The first elephants to arrive at the zoo

By Chester Zoo

During the war Chester Zoo played a vital role in taking care of evacuated animals from all over the country. One particular incident was brought to George Mottershead's attention when a number of people sent in a newspaper article stating two elephants were looking for a new home as their owner had been called up for the RAF.

The elephants had been part of Doorley’s Tropical Revue – a travelling menagerie, but because of the war had found themselves stranded and out of work. Mr Ralph Marshall was desperate to find the two young elephants a place to stay, otherwise they would have to be destroyed! Supporters of Chester Zoo wrote to George Mottershead explaining how they would rather subscribe to a weekly sum of money for their keep rather than see them being destroyed.

The two elephants - Manniken and Molly - arrived on 28 August 1941, after two months of correspondence between George Mottershead and Ralph Marshall. Along with the elephants came Khanadas, their mahout - a young lad who had looked after the elephants for the majority of their life, and who continued to care for them when they came to Chester Zoo.

All three new arrivals settled in well. The elephants made themselves at home and enjoyed what was left of the British summer.

On the evening of 3rd November tragedy struck. Out of the blue, Manniken, one of the baby elephants suddenly fell ill and before the vet could do anything she sadly passed away. George Mottershead and the zoo were extremely upset and Khanadas the young boy was heartbroken as he had grown attached to them both over the years.

Molly became a great favourite with visitors as a provider of elephant rides until her death in 1955.

See more: Mammals