Former Cleethorpes zoo keeper recalls time he was nearly squashed by an elephant
WHEN lost remnants of Cleethorpes zoo were found buried beneath Pleasure Island, a former zoo keeper's memories of a near-miss with an elephant were unearthed.
John Coman, 65, spent six years as a zoo keeper at Cleethorpes Marineland Zoo, which entertained hordes of visitors during the 1960s and 70s.
He has many fond memories, but when he read the Grimsby Telegraph's article reporting the discovery of the old elephant ring, he was reminded of a scarier time – when he was almost squashed by Tanya the elephant.
John, who met his wife, Suzanne, at the zoo where she worked in Pets Corner, was left with a bruised face and ribcage after Tanya – who was known for her attitude – pushed him against the wall as he chained her up for the night.
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He said: "I bent down and as I did, I touched her leg which made her jump. I stood up and she pushed me into the corner. She started to push, I shouted her name and she took the pressure off. I slid down the wall and crawled out on my hands and knees, waited a few minutes then went back in and quickly chained her up!"
The elephant ring was dug up as contractors build the new Furry Friend's petting zoo opening at the theme park on Friday, March 29.
John thinks Tanya – who often bathed in Cleethorpes sea – had forgotten he was in the pen and got over excited about eating her dustbin full of fruit and vegetables.
He worked with all the animals, his favourite being the chimps, but after his ordeal, his fondness for elephants was replaced with fear and wonder about what could have happened if Tanya hadn't been so forgiving.
And Tanya wasn't the only cranky creature at the zoo, John also had seven stitches in his hand after a close call with a crocodile.
He added: "I was left with a bit of elephant claustrophobia, I didn't like going in their pen. I felt Tanya didn't like me, she liked to have things her way and there were a few times she went to swipe me.
"I often wonder what would have happened if she took no notice of me calling her name – maybe she was going to make a Picasso painting of me, an arm here, a leg there, all over the elephant house wall."