Culture

5 devastating stories about animals during World War II

Patricia Hului

When humans decide to start a war, there is always a price to pay. Other than innocent lives, the environment and the animals are the casualties of war which are often overlooked.

Looking back in history, here are five sad stories on what happened to some animals during World War II (WWII):

1.The British pet massacre

The year was 1939, the United Kingdom knew WWII was coming so they needed to prepare for the worst such as food shortage.

The British government then formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) to decide what happened to pets before the war.

The committee’s solution? They distributed pamphlets titled “Advice to Animal Owners” advising pet owners to move their pets from the big cities into the countryside.

However, the pamphlets concluded with the statement, “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”

It is estimated that over 750,000 pets were killed, especially during the beginning of the war.

Eventually, many pet owners blamed the government for starting the hysteria.

2.No thanks to air raids, a giraffe was frightened to death

During the second World War, the Whipsnade Zoo in England served as a refuge center for animals evacuated from the Regents Park London Zoo.

In 1940, altogether there were 41 bombs fell on Whipsnade Zoo during three different raids.

According to the zoo’s official website, there were only two casualties.

The first victim was a goose which was one of oldest inhabitants of the zoo.

Meanwhile the second casualty was a 3-year-old giraffe named Boxer, which had been born in captivity.

The poor giraffe was so frightened by the bombing sounds that she ran herself to exhaustion and died.

3.The animals were electrocuted because they couldn’t be poisoned

The Kamoike Zoo in Kagoshima city was built by a railway company on a former hunting grounds in 1916.

In those days, it was normal for railway companies to build zoos or amusement parks as attractions for new railroads.

According to official records, the Kamoike City Zoo killed two lions, seven bears, four alligators and two pythons from Oct 6 to 31, 1943.

However, it was not mentioned how they were executed.

Later, the zoo officials revealed in 1986 interviews that all fifteen animals were electrocuted.

M.Itoh in the book Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II stated,
“The zoo staff initially tried to poison them with strychnine nitrate. However, the animals sensed something unusual and refused to eat the poisoned food. Then the zoo staff connected high-voltage electricity from the nearby streetcar station early in the morning before the trains began to run and electrocuted the animals.”

4.The death of Ellie the Elephant

After the war broke out, basically all the zoos in Japan empire received order to kill their most ferocious animals.

Kumamoto City Zoo for instance, executed three tigers, two lions, two Japanese black bears, an Exo brown bear, a brown bear, a Malayan sun bear, a black leopard, a leopard and three wolves in 1944.

Other animals such as the python, hippopotamus and a ten-year-old elephant named Ellie were saved by the staff as they strongly argued that they were not “ferocious animals”.

Unfortunately, despite the effort, things did not end well for these animals during World War II.

In 1945, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) decided to kill Ellie in order to feed the servicemen instead.

At first, they tried to force Ellie go into a pool to which high-voltage electricity was connected.

Ellie’s instinct, however, kicked in sensing there was something unusual so she refused to enter the pool.

The army then made Ellie’s keeper in-charge Kanazawa Taro do something against his will.

They forced Kanazawa to feed Ellie using a stick with a potato.

Since the stick came from the human she trusted, Ellie accepted the potato using her mouth.

The stick actually was connected to an electric wire and Ellie was electrocuted to death.

Kanazawa who had been taking care of Ellie since she was three, reportedly stopped talking about the poor elephant since her death.

5.The Massacre of Ueno Zoo, Japan

Animals during World War II are the silent victims of human war.
Lions are shot at Higashiyama Zoo in 1944. Photo credit: Copyright Expired.

In Japan, one of the horrific animal massacres took place in the oldest zoo in the country.

Opened on Mar 20, 1882, Ueno Zoo in Tokyo was started as a menagerie under the National Museum of Natural History.

During WWII, the animals in Ueno Zoo were killed systematically.

Most of them were executed using poison and strangulation.

Sadly, some had to go through slow and painful death by starvation.

Kyoko was a female hippopotamus who gave birth to a male offspring at Ueno Zoo in 1937.

While many of the animals in the zoo were killed in 1944, Kyoko and her son survived.

However, Allied air raids on Tokyo changed their fate. On the night of Mar 9-10, 1945, a series of bombing took place in Japan’s capital city.

The zookeeper then decided on Mar 19 to stop feeding Kyoko and her son due to lack of food.

Unfortunately, the son died first on Apr 1 and Kyoko only on Apr 24 after about a month long of starvation.

Apart from Kyoko and her son, three elephants and one polar bear were also put through the most cruel of execution method as they were purposefully starved to death by the zookeepers.