Who was Casey, and where was his place?
Casey, an African bull elephant, arrived in Kansas City in 1955 at the age of four. Both he and his female companion, Lady, had the letter “A” attached to their names, in reference to the Kansas City Athletics, the major league baseball team also referred to as the A’s.
The A’s team logo featured an elephant holding a bat with its trunk, but the drive to purchase the pair for the new African veldt exhibit was started by Parkview Drugs president Phillip Small, who donated the first $100. Elephant “piggie” banks were placed at each drug store location to collect funds for the $8000 purchase price. Only $1000 was raised, so Athletic’s owner Arnold Johnson contributed $3500 and Small donated the final $3500.
While the zoo had several Indian elephants, since 1920, Casey and Lady were the first African elephants, arriving straight from the Congo. In 1962, Lady and Casey acquired a new barn in the veldt area, having outgrown their original barn which proved to be easily dismantled by active elephants.
When Lady died in 1971, a new companion, Penny, arrived and the zoo held a wedding ceremony for the two. The “bride” was adorned with an elephant-sized veil, and the “newlyweds” chomped on the floral decorations and corsages following the ceremony.
Despite his size, Casey had been considered a gentle giant, easily following his keeper’s commands. But in 1982, in two separate incidents, Casey attacked and injured a zookeeper and the zoo staff was faced with the difficult decision of what to do with an aggressive elephant. The Friends of the Zoo stepped forward to raise $150,000 to install heavy security bars that allowed Casey to be cared for while keeping his keepers out of harm’s way, both inside the barn and the veldt. In addition to corporate contributions, buttons with the slogan “Casey’s Place is Elephantastic” were sold to help raise funds.
Casey shared his place with another male named Dale. When the Okavango Sanctuary exhibit opened in 1994, all the females moved from the old veldt, but Casey and Dale stayed behind. At age 52, Casey died September 24, 2003.