Friday, October 18, 2019



Chic Silber said...

Lin Wang was the oldest living

elephant on record as of 2003

when he died at age 86 at the

Taipei Zoo in Taiwan

Richard Reynolds said...

Burmese male elephant Lin Wang. - - -Neither Ken Kawata nor I believe Taipei Zoo’s Lin Wang elephant was anything like 86 years old at time of death on 25 February 2003.

Kawata said that an elephant that old should show signs of very advanced years such as sunken temples, frayed ears, and ribs showing. I agree. The Taipei folks claimed he was born “around 1918” - -only a guess on their part. I think it was more like the early 1930s. That would have made him around 70 at death - - nevertheless, very impressive. I have videotape of him from late in his life, and he is very youthful looking for what must have been a very advanced age.

This much we know - -a lot of it from Jane Wang in “The Taciturn Pachyderm - -Linwang the Elephant Veteran” (translated by Brent Heinrich). Lin Wang was with a group of logging elephants in the forests of Northern Burma when World War II came to that land. The Imperial Japanese Army commandeered him (and other elephants) during their April 1942 offensive, which led to their capturing Lashio and the severing of the Burma Road. [It linked Lahsio with Kunming (Yunnan Province) China.] With the entire Chinese coast under Japanese control, the Burma Road was the only route by which those at War with Japan could supply China with critical food supplies and war materials. The Soviet Union was not then at war with Japan, so its eastern Chinese border areas provided no access into China. As you know, with the Burma Road under Japanese control, we then turned to air, flying the Himalayan hump. That was hazardous at best and not all that effective.

Lin Wang went to work as a pack animal for the Japanese. According to author Wang (see above), it was in 1943 when the Chinese India Corps got hold of him. They had been training in India with the objective of retaking Burma. (Given what I know about operations and engagements in that theater of the war, it must have been very late in 1943 or more likely well into 1944). The “capture “of Lin Wang happened near Namhkam, Burma, north of Lashio. The Chinese sent out a scouting party to find some work elephants. Disguised as Burmese, they came upon Lin Wang and 12 other pack elephants in a thick bamboo grove. Burmese elephant drivers working for the Japanese were tending them - -no doubt under pain of death. One of the Chinese, an intelligence officer who could speak Burmese, pretended to be acting on orders for the Japanese. He directed the mahouts to march the elephants, but in a direction toward the Chinese lines. The mahouts figured out what was happening and fled. The Chinese then took the elephants and put them to work hauling ammunition and other supplies. On 7 March 1945 the Chinese Army retook Lashio. The next month, with the Burma Road once more in Allied hands, the Chinese India Corps used it to march Lin Wang and his pachyderm mates from Lashio into China. In 1947 Lin Wang was taken to Formosa (Taiwan). In 1954 he took up residence in the Taipei zoo.

I would put Lin Wang’s birth in about 1932. That would have made him around 10 when the Japanese took him in 1942, perhaps too young to be doing heavy logging work. Maybe Lin Wang was tagging along with other work elephants, doing light pack work and learning the trade as it were, when he fell into enemy hands. Whatever, I would put him at or just over 70 when he died. In my opinion that is a more acceptable Asian elephant longevity than the 86 assigned by the Taipei zoo.

Another possibility has occurred to me. It borders on blasphemy, namely, that there were two elephants named Lin Wang, one the successor of the other, with the “86-year” longevity achieved by adding the two together. Giving successor animals the same names as earlier ones has happened many times. That has been true for circus animals (particularly Ringling) and one need be most careful not to confuse the animals. Whatever, debunking the 86 age assigned by the Taiwanese would cause much loss of face.

Chic Silber said...

Many thanks Richard

I guess that zoos might be as

loose with facts as circuses

Would DNA prove age

Wade G. Burck said...

Thank you RJR!!!!! You and Ken Kawata have given so much to the world of true animal history. I am eternally grateful for both of you gentleman.

Chic, don't lump all zoo's into one pile, but yes indeed many, many Asian zoos are "loose with facts" and China leads them all.

Wade Burck

Chic Silber said...

Certainly not ALL zoos

but I've seen some very

strange & badly written

identification signage

in some domestic zoos

as well as a few foreign

Best & most informative

were in European zoos

Thanks Wade

Wade G. Burck said...


Most definitely European zoos, specifically, in my opinion, Germany and Belgium. although our own Bronx zoo has to be pointed out as right up there with Europes best. For the best history, I suggest France's Jardin Des Plantes.

Wade Burck

Chic Silber said...

Yes indeed Wade as I've

visited several in Germany

& the Antwerp Zoo although

not of tremendous acreage

is a fantastic exhibition

of an exquisite collection

Richard Reynolds said...

I'm not sure this photo is of Lin Wang. Doesn't look at all like the photo I have of Lin Wang. I'll look it up and send it on. And what is going on here - - - a weighing exercise?

Wade G. Burck said...

RJR, This is a statue of Lin Wang that is displayed at the Taipei Zoo. Probably taken when they were moving it for installation. I have sent Chic a couple of pictures, on which shows him being loaded into a crate to make the move to the new zoo and it looks like he broke off a couple of feet of his left tusk, yet all pictures at the new zoo show him with two tusks. Might add credence to the "two elephant" theory. Also a picture of his skeleton and the female that he lived with most of his life. I assume it is his real tusks or other available ivory added.


Wade Burck