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    • 29yrswithaGApass

      RECENT SITE UPDATES   10/07/2017

                                                     
GAcoaster

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i am donald bale and i worked in the safari park from early 74 to early 76. i started before the park opened even before some of the animals arrived. i'm looking for some old friends i worked with. i worked with the elephant and rhinos which was a trip all by themselves. butch, david, ronnie, jake, wolfe? any of you guys out there anywhere? any of you reply and i'll give you my e-mail and let gary know.

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Hey Donald, welcome to the site! If you have a chance, we would love to hear about some of your experiences in the Safari! We are always interested learning more about that park especially the arrival of the animals. Did you work in unloading them and introducing them to the park? If so, we may have a picture or two of you in our collection! What were you wearing? (<-- :P)

 

If you click HERE, it will take you to a topic thread of a past GA employee who worked with the animals in the early 70s.

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Thanks for asking, I'll tell you as much as I can, first off I worked there for around two years, but it is two of the best years of my life. I worked with so many good people there I didn't realize how much I would miss them and the animals I worked with. I wouldn't change my life but I do miss that part of it. Gary and I moved there from working with Ringling bros. circus world, this was about 3 to 4 months before the park opened. Gary went to Africa and helped capture the elephants and bring them back.

 

On their return Butch, Charlie, Karen and I drove to Kennedy airport to meet Gary and the elephants. The animals were in individual crates that were loaded onto flatbed trailers and covered up with tarps. Now getting these animals to the safari park was priceless, just imagine tarp covered semi's going down the road and seeing 2 to 3 feet of an elephant's trunk sticking out of the flaps of the tarps and just swinging about and sniffing around. after we arrived at the elephant barn the pain staking process began, unloading the crates, unbolting the doors an herding the elephants into their pens. we had 27 elephants in 4 large pens and soon we had 16 rhinos for the other half of the barn. I was 19 years old at the time and had a job that few people knew was great.

 

I do have pictures of my time there ( somewhere boxed up in this house) if I can scan them or put them on a disc I will. The next time i write I'll tell a few more things about the animals.

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Wow, thank you so much for sharing that! I hope you can find those pictures, I imagine they're fascinating.

 

We had a little blurb about the elephants arrival:

 

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Thanks for the story Donald. We look forward to hearing more when you have an opportunity.

 

Here's a photo of the elephants at the park just a few short weeks after the park opened in 1974. Did they all have names?

 

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The article was great, I hadn't seen that in a long time, thanks.

 

Yes on the names, Gary already had them named by the time he got back. I don't remember most of them but a few of them I'll never forget. the smallest one was named Boss, he thought he was king of the hill and as gentle as he could be, he loved being petted and was very playful. One a little bigger was Bongo, he was a lot of fun too, he thought he was in charge. He always threw up his trunk, ears out, and charge towards you for a few feet. You could find him pretty easily in the pack because when he ate he would hum and pretty loudly. Panya I won't forget about,she was only about 4 feet tall but very skiddish. Once while cleaning her pen with her still in it I crossed through by the door and she charged and pinned me with her trunk. I only had enough breath to get out half of Gary's name and he came a running and scared her away. I never made that mistake again.

 

I don't know if the pond is still in the section but when the elephants were first let into the section from the barn area they headed strait for the pond and trees around it. Starting out you could hardly see the pond from the road, after a week all small trees and vegetation were gone, only the large trees remained and those had no bark left on them for as far as they could reach. From this point and through the first season the park was open most of my job was to walk around with the elephants in the section and keep the rhinos away so they could eat their own food. They usually stayed between the lake and the feeder you can see in the photo you posted. Will add more later.

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Donald, That is interesting info about the trees! Below is one of the first postcards for the Safari issued in 1974. Do you think this photo was actually taken at GA or another animal reserve somewhere?

 

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Glad to see Donald has added some info on the early years of the park. I will add to his story. We both worked at an animal park in Mesquite, Tx named World of Animals. The park closed and the animals were sold to Hardwicke Inc. who was building Great Adventure. Almost all of our animals ended up at GA. We sold the elephants in Tx to Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus and one went to Rex Williams in California. I had 3 male Asian elephants and one female African. There was about 7 of us that worked and the closed park to care and catch and transport to NJ. Everyone was supposed to move to NJ for the opening of GA but some of the guys had problems. I was offered a job in Florida with the Circus so I took it and 7 months later Butch Dring called me and offered me a job and the trip to Africa for the babies. I had hired Donald and brought him from Tx to Fla and then when I got the GA offer I brought him along with me. He was my assistant and took care of things when I was off or elsewhere. Alot of fun and crazy things happened those first two years of the parks opening. I knew if I didn't move on, I would never leave GA, but I had too many other offers out there to turn down. I really want to visit during the Reunion but I hope that the people in charge will understand that I would love to visit the backyard area of the Safari and see my old elephants and rhinos that actually came from Texas. I know some are still there from a newpaper article I read this last year. There are only 8 elephants out of the 29 that I had orginally, they wanted the number to be 30 but one elephant died from liver flukes and we couldn't save it. The other 4 came from the park in Canada. The pictures are from the park, we even made a TV commerical for the park at one time. More later, Gary

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i just read the story- going on winter safari- and clicked on the picture slideshow, in it was a picture of a rhino called squeak. when gary and i worked there he was called squeaker. he was the gentlest rhino there. he loved being rubbed behind the ears like most of them did. i walked many a day in the the elephant and rhino section with him or near him. there were times when i would put my safari hat on his short horn and let him walk around with it on. it always amazed me that he would leave it on there. as for the post card of the elephants, it looks like the pond and elephants, but gary hill could tell for sure. he probably has one of them, he was a lot smarter than i was about keeping memorabilia like that. all i have is pictures i took and a couple of patches from back then.

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Donald , I am trying to find the thread where Ken Moog signed on? I will find it eventually? Hope any other Past Safari and maybe some of the newer guys/gals will give us some info on how things are?

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You guys may want to try the VIP Off-road Adventure Tour if you visit. As a VIP tour there is a premium charge for the experience but it is really a great experience that takes you to backstage areas. We went in the fall of 2007. Here are some photos of our guide and of a rhino and elephant near their barns.

 

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I remember the wardens use to have rifles hanging in the back of their safari vehcles. As employees, did you have to go through a gun training program?

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Only the Wardens with the cats and bears carried weapons. I had a ankus or bullhook that I used with the elephants for my protection on foot with them. I had to introduce the elephants and some of the rhinos to human contact. Remember that the 25 elephants I brought back from Uganda were out of the wild and it took me alot of time to gain their trust. I wasn't allowed to train them like I should have but later on in the following years after I left, they had to bring in other experienced elephant men to train some of them so they could be handled and doctored. Too bad I wasn't allowed to do it back when they were smaller.

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Hey 29yrs, is that Dr. Bill Rives, the director of the Safari that gave you your tour? Wonder if you could get him to comment on this site? I would guess that the elephant is RIP the big male? Thanks, Gary

Edited by Gary Hill

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Me and squeaker #2 and #3. You can tell by these pictures that squeaker is pretty gentle, he loved being rubbed behind the ears just like a dog but most of the rhino's loved being rubbed there too.

 

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