Children's Book Recalls Zoo's Last Elephants

By Bill Laitner,   Detroit Free Press, 
August 12, 2016

The Detroit Zoo's last two elephants -Wanda and Winky - made headlines in 2005 when their retirement to a sanctuary in California sparked an international

con­versation about how elephants fare and sometimes suffer in captivity.
Winky was euthanized in 2008 at age 56 because of ar­thritis complications, and Wanda met the same fate in 2015 at 57, both dying presum­ably very happy to have left Michigan winter behind . Now the two have been im­mortalized in a new children's book being launched from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today at Jen's Gifts of Love, 4280 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield . Retired Walled Lake Schools teacher and library media specialist Linda McLean,  who  lives  in Commerce Township, will be there with illustrator Susan VanDe­venter Warner of Walled Lake to sign their books priced  at $12 each and aimed at ages 5- 12.
The 38-page book has a blend of poetry and prose, McLean  said.  For  younger fans, the book has "elephant talk, every other page," McLean said. Older ones will latch onto the "elephant facts" section at the back of the book, "if they're doing a term paper," the author said. This is McLean's second book for children. Her first, in 2007, was titled "The Heidel­berg Project: A Street of Dreams," and introduced young readers to the quirky outdoor art installations and the artist who created them on Detroit's near east side. She self-published both books, McLean said.  "Wanda and Winky" is ded­icated to Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan, who was both cheered and criticized when he declared that Detroit must give up its elephants because its winter cold created inhu­mane conditions and they should not be housed on con­crete pads in confined areas. Kagan arranged for the two aging elephants to be shipped to PAWS - the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in San Andreas, Calif .It was at PAWS where the duo suddenly found them­selves traipsing across dozens of acres of natural terrain  under California sunshine, then sleeping in large living quar­ters equipped with heated stalls and therapeutic Jacuz­zis. When the duo was shipped west, the Free Press sent along a reporter and photographer, and their report on the ani­mals' dramatic lifestyle shift generated  the headline,
"Pachyderm Paradise: Girls · Doing Great." McLean said she had delivered a copy of the book to Kagan's office but she was  unaware  if  he  had  seen  it.  She 
planned to donate a portion of  the book's proceeds to the De­troit Zoo. In addition, the au­thor said she'd give $1from the saleof each book to PAWS.And she will donate another portion to S.O.U.L., an Oakland County charity that helps needy individuals. With so many donations planned, she'll be left with "a pittance" from writing "Winky and Wanda,"McLean said with a laugh, but also with "the joy of doing it," she said.

Contact Bill Laitner: 313-223-4485 or blaitner@freepress.com .