The first elephants acquired by the National Zoological Park were ‘Dunk’ and ‘Gold Dust’ in April of 1891.
James E. Cooper, owner of the Adam Forepaugh Shows, donated the two to the National Zoological Park. They were actually the first animals to take up residence on the Zoo grounds (the live animals that were to move there from the Mall and the U.S. National Museum didn’t start arriving until shortly after the two elephants).
There was no facility to house them when they arrived, so they had to be chained to trees until a shelter was built. Water had to be tediously hauled in barrels from the Rock Creek. Both elephants had a reputation of a mean disposition—probably why the circus was eager to unload them!
‘Gold Dust’ died in 1898 after falling while taking a walk with ‘Dunk.’ ‘Dunk’ lived until 1917 when he fell while sleeping, leaning against a wall, breaking his shoulder. He had to be put down.
–Wild animals in and out of the Zoo, by William M. Mann
Further Elephant Reading:
Asian elephant: ecology and management, by R. Sukumar
Elephants and ethics: toward a morality of coexistence, edited by Christen Wemmer and Catherine A. Christen; foreword by John Seidensticker.