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Tinkerbelle’s Final Trip to Neverland

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The Asian elephant whose transfer to a San Andreas animal sanctuary last year stirred up controversy in the zoo community, was euthanized last Thursday due to degenerative joint and foot problems.

Tinkerbelle, the 39-year-old elephant came to the Performing Animal Welfare Society´s ARK 2000 sanctuary off Pool Station Road in November after spending virtually all of her life at the San Francisco Zoo.

Pat Derby, PAWS founder and co-director, said she knew Tinkerbelle was living “on borrowed time” when she made the move to ARK 2000 in late November.

“Her condition wasn´t fixable,” Derby said. “Elephants are not like people — you can´t put them back on their feet. If you had bad feet, you could go to a podiatrist and they could restructure something. You can´t do that with an elephant.”

Derby said Tinkerbelle was pigeon-toed and her legs splayed out, which could have led to her problems.

“She stood sort of wrong on her feet, and over time the pad of her foot was pushing off to the side,” Derby said. As a result, Derby said, Tinkerbelle walked directly on her bones rather than the pad of the foot. Over time, Derby said, Tinkerbelle´s condition deteriorated. She said a number of veterinarians examined the elephant and determined nothing could be done to save her.

“I was willing to anesthetize her and do any kind of surgery or whatever we needed to do,” Derby said. “But the consensus was that with a condition like hers, there was no fix.” Derby said PAWS staff members were taking Tinkerbelle´s loss hard.