News - Index > Apr. - Aug. '06 > August 2006
Winkie's Depression 


The Sanctuary Staff would like to express our deepest gratitude to all who have showed their overwhelming support to the Burke Family and The Sanctuary. Thank you for all your heartwarming words of encouragement in this difficult time.

If you have not yet heard this tragic news, please brace yourself before reading further. On Friday, July 21, we lost our beloved colleague and friend Joanna Burke in a sudden accident involving Winkie.

Joanna�s loss is still too great to absorb. Our lead Asian caregiver for more than six years, she shared a very special, unconditional love for each and every one of her "Girls." Understandably, the elephants she cared for instantly sensed her absence in a profound way.

We can not yet fully explain what may have triggered Winkie�s post-traumatic stress. Nor can we explain the realization that Joanna passed away on the very same anniversary as her beloved Tina did two years ago. (both pictured above)

Over the years, Joanna not only strongly believed in the Sanctuary�s mission, in many ways she helped us to write them. She was actively involved in every one of our elephant rescues and played a major role in our research and education. In both her life�s work and deeds, Joanna made it perfectly clear that no harm should come to any elephant no matter their action.

The day before Joanna died, she had just run across an archived radio interview about the Sanctuary and sent the following e-mail: "After listening to your interview, I found myself out taking care of the girls as the sun sank below the horizon, seeing and feeling it all as though it was the first time. Your words made me reconnect to our mission here in such a powerful way."

While Joanna�s dedication blessed us in life every day, what we did not realize was that it had been her expressed wish to be buried here, too. So shortly before sunset on July 26 in a private ceremony with her family, friends and co-workers, Joanna was laid to rest on the top of a hill overlooking her Sanctuary and her elephants.

The Burke family shared and supported Joanna�s passion for elephants, and asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, friends and supporters honor her life by making a donation to The Elephant Sanctuary in her memory.

Thank you all for your outpouring of support and prayers. Over the past week, it has been a great comfort to realize just how big our Sanctuary family really is.

Carol Buckley

How Winkie Is Doing

Immediately following the incident that claimed Joanna's life, Winkie sunk into a deep depression. Her posture; slumped shoulders and downcast head and eyes were more than her caregivers could bear to witness. Gone was her enthusiastic vocalizations and jovial manner, she had no greetings for her family, elephant or human. She was closed off emotionally, removed and sad. BUT, she was not aggressive in any way.

The look on her face was unmistakable�Winkie was in mourning. Being cognisant that Winkie needed time to return to her right mind, her primary caregivers gave her space while continuing to reassure her verbally. As the days passed, Winkie began to recover from the shock of her actions and slowly, painfully, return to her former, docile, affectionate, loving self. With encouragement from Scott and Carol, Winkie started to show signs of wanting to reconnect with us. She solicited affection and participated in conversation. It took nearly one week for Winkie to recover from this stage of her mourning process. Although there is no question about what Winkie did, there are many questions as to why.

All the information we can gather points to past trauma so intense, so debilitating, that Winkie has and very likely never will recover from it. Such trauma can invoke irreversible damage to the brain, causing Winkie to act out in ways beyond her control. We are currently researching as much information as we can to better understand Winkie's behavior, both for her welfare and the welfare of all who care for her. Throughout this entire ordeal, Sissy has been at Winkie's side supporting her as a dear friend does.

How Scott Is Doing

Sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais was also injured by Winkie in the accident. He sustained some cuts and bruises and a broken fibula, but was released from the hospital a few hours later with a soft cast.

A follow-up exam with the doctor a few days ago revealed his foot was healing nicely and that further surgery would not be necessary. While his cast and crutches may slow him down a bit over the next 4-6 weeks, Scott is already back to work and actively involved in supervising the day-to-day Sanctuary operations, including closely monitoring Winkie to make sure she is healing, too.

The Elephant Sanctuary®
Hohenwald, TN 38462
(931) 796-6500 ext. 26



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