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Don Pedro: the elephant that died twice

22 April 2016 by Emma Martin

Don Pedro (the elephant) standing proud at the centre of the Upper Horseshoe Gallery before 3 May 1941

Don Pedro (the elephant) standing proud at the centre of the Upper Horseshoe Gallery before 3 May 1941

University of Manchester student Lolo is working on our new online exhibition that will be launched 3 May. Here’s his latest blog on some of the objects and specimens that feature in it.

“Many of you may already know that the King of Prussia Jug was one of the Blitz survivors. But not all the stories relating to the museum’s objects and specimens had a happy ending. There were also hundreds if not thousands of casualties. I was very upset when we heard about the sad story of Don Pedro, a male Indian elephant once in the zoology collection. They say cats have nine lives, but poor Don Pedro had just two.

Don Pedro’s first death came while he performed in the Barnum and Bailey circus. In May 1898, he was euthanised because he escaped and ran wild in Liverpool. His corpse was then transported to the museum where he was stuffed, becoming a museum specimen.

In 1906, Don Pedro was ‘reincarnated’ at the opening of the Upper Horseshoe gallery (now the World Cultures gallery), where the museum’s foreign zoology collections lived. There, he stood as the gallery’s centrepiece overseeing the other mammal specimens.

The Upper Horseshoe gallery in the days after the 3 May 1941

The Upper Horseshoe gallery in the days after the 3 May 1941

Unfortunately, he lost his life again 43 years later. On the night of 3 May 1941, World Museum suffered extensive fire damage during the Blitz. Douglas Allan, the museum‘s director witnessed the devastation:

It (the fire) spread rapidly and enveloped the floor and contents of one arm of the Horseshoe Gallery, both main and upper stories being affected.

The elephant disappeared in the fire that night. If he had not died during the Blitz, he may well have become a star of the museum. Poor Don Pedro, the unfortunate elephant who died twice!”

  1. george McIver says:

    Sad really…take it he wont be making anymore trunk calls then?

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.