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Zoo Seeks Misplaced Elephant Head

January 3, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ If only humans had the memories of elephants.

Staff members and volunteers at the San Francisco Zoo have been digging holes since last spring in an attempt to find the buried head of Pennie, an Asian elephant that died in 1995.

After Pennie was euthanized due to a severely unstable hip and a suspected neurological disorder, zoo officials detached and buried her head to preserve her skull for educational use.

But now the two who were present at the burial can’t remember where they buried it.

``We’re trying to take it with a sense of humor, but it’s serious too because it’s an important scientific piece,″ says Diane Kisich, who manages the zoo’s collection of bones.

The zoo has spent about $900 so far _ mostly to rent heavy equipment _ to dig holes between two trees that were used as markers for the head’s grave. Trouble is, there’s at least 40 feet between the two trees.

``It’s been an adventure because it’s been like an archeological dig,″ says associate curator Michele Rudovsky.

In December, zoo workers found the spot where Pennie’s ribs, internal organs and other parts were buried. That gives them hope, since her skull is supposed to be in an adjacent pit.

It may be spring before they finally find the skull, which is about 4 feet across at its widest point and about 3 feet high. Zoo workers speculate that, once it’s dry, it will weigh about 200 pounds.

Kisich suggested the zoo place a silver dollar with any future bones it buries.

``Then we can use a metal detector.″

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