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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2004

1933 attack cost life of beloved zoo star

 •  Slain elephant left tenuous legacy in animal rights

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

If you think a Tyke-like tragedy couldn't happen here twice, think again.

It already has.

The Tyke incident was the second time in Honolulu that a raging, full-grown female African elephant stomped her trainer to death and was gunned down within an hour by police using high-powered rifles.

The first time was on the afternoon of March 3, 1933, when Daisy, the Kapiolani Zoo's star attraction, slammed her trainer, George Conradt, to the ground and crushed him in front of horrified onlookers.

Conradt had just given Daisy apples and water and was leading her to her undersized shed near the center of Kapi'olani Park when she resisted. As the trainer tried to coax the nearly 5-ton elephant inside, Daisy grabbed him with her trunk, punctured his chest with a tusk and flattened him under her weight.

Fifteen minutes later, a squad of Honolulu police circled Daisy and opened fire. She fell dead at 3:50 p.m.

Like Tyke, Daisy became the object of an outpouring of community grief. Conradt's wife defended Daisy, saying the animal loved her husband and if she had struck him down it was because people had taunted her and turned her bad. "She was never mean before," she said.

But Daisy had become ill-tempered and unmanageable, no doubt worsened by occasional cruel pranksters who burned her trunk with cigarettes or fed her chewing gum, which made her sick.

More than once, she turned on spectators. Three years before she killed Conradt, Daisy broke a woman's arm with her trunk.

The city parks board had even voted to have Daisy destroyed in February 1933, but a "Save Daisy" campaign was launched by the community.

"If you kill Daisy, you can kill me," Conradt had said, rising to Daisy's defense.

Daisy's popularity dated to 1916 when Honolulu Board of Supervisors chairman Ben Hollinger bought the 8-year-old elephant — described as the first African elephant born in captivity — for $3,000. Most of that money was raised from contributions by Island schoolchildren.

For years after that, Daisy was a park fixture, spending her days giving children rides around the same dusty path at a dime apiece. In the evening she was confined to her tiny shed, restrained by a short, heavy chain attached to a stake. There was talk of building her a larger home, but it never came to be.

Just when it appeared that her life might be spared thanks to the Save Daisy campaign, the Daisy saga came to an abrupt and sorrowful end.

The day after her death and that of Conradt, hundreds of O'ahu children filed into a Ward district transportation yard to view Daisy's body before it was unceremoniously hauled four miles out to sea and dumped.