Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Colchester Zoo - Moto and Toto

From "The Colchester Express," 1967
Courtesy of Gorotex /

The question presented by former Chipperfield elephant keeper Peter was raised in a post documenting the original Chipperfield elephant herd import in the late 1940s to the sale of eight elephants to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the early 1960s.

>> "Jim Stockley Collection - Chipperfields 1956" at ShowMe Elephants," 06/12/2011

It first appears that neither Moto nor Toto are present in any online elephant databases, including and This pair of animals is also not found in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's Asian Elephant Studbook., the largest elephant database online, only lists a history of African elephants for the Colchester Zoo, beginning first with the arrival of Tanya and Zola in 1985.

Referencing, a zoo community discussion forum and photo gallery site, evidence of Moto and Toto's existence was discovered thanks to information shared by fellow zoo enthusiast 'Gorotex.' The first finding was made with a photograph and description of the pair of Asian elephants cited by Peter - Moto and Toto in a Colchester Zoo Guidebook from the late-1960s.

From "The Colchester Express," 1967
Courtesy of Gorotex /

More information is discovered regarding Moto and Toto with commentary from fellow zoo and elephant enthusiast Rob Vaughan.
"The pair of Asian elephants arrived ca.1966 and were at Colchester for around five years - they appeared on a guidebook cover in the late 1960s (scan attached).

These were not Colchester's first elephants as an Asian calf named "Caroline" was pictured in the first (ca.1965) guidebook.

The African elephants arrived ca.1971, presumably shortly after the Asian departed (I have no idea what happened to them). Confusingly, both pairs of animals were called Moto and Toto (though the Asians were a bull and a cow and the Africans were two cows)." //Rob Vaughan
Colchester Zoo Guidebook, 1968
Courtesy of R Vaughan

After contacting Mr. Vaughan to find more information about Moto and Toto, it was confessed that "trying to research anything on the pre-Tropeano Colchester is pretty challenging as there's very little data recorded about that era."
"The Tropeano family took over Colchester Zoo in 1983. The previous owner was Frank Farrar, an animal dealer (and one time owner of Southport Zoo) who I believe was related to the Tropeanos through marriage. As you can imagine, many animals passed through the zoo during its first twenty years (it was opened in 1963) and unfortunately there appear to be almost no written records. The only evidence available for this period comes in the form of guidebooks, postcards and the occasional personal recollection." //Rob Vaughan

To find the disposition of Peter's Moto and Toto, the lead given by Peter was followed that the elephants were purchased by a zoo in Margate, Kent. The amusement park Dreamland was discovered to occupy this city, an attraction with a long and complicated history of animal exhibition dating back to the 1870s. More research regarding this facility will be addressed in a later ShowMe Elephants article so as to not distract from the focus on Moto and Toto.

Raymond Dolling discloses much information regarding one of the many animal operations at Dreamland - The Safari Zoo of the 1970s. He also identifies the relationship building with this park and elephant holding institutions relevant to Moto and Toto - the Colchester Zoo and Dickie Chipperfield.
"The Safari Zoo was the brainchild of Dreamland MD John Iles and opened in June 1969 on the site of Sanger's original zoological garden. It lasted for 7 years but was never successful, run by a series of lesses - Dick Chipperfield of Chipperfield's Circus, Frank Farrar of Colchester Zoo, Hoffmans Circus, Bernard Bale and Al Verlaine who later opened Cleethorpes Zoo, animal dealer Mike Frewer, and Don Robinson of Scarborough Marineland who ran it as 'Birdland' and 'Wonderpark' with huge models of prehistoric creatures." //Raymond Dolling

A news clipping reprinted by advertises the opening of Dreamland's Safari Wild Animal Park, complete with elephants among other exotic species.

Dreamland's Safari Park, 1969
Courtesy of Jon Anton Collection /

A 1970 promotional film for Margate's attractions features clips of the zoo, though pictures a young African elephant in a petting zoo setting. The Asian elephant pair is not viewed.

>> "All Go Margate - Various Attractions (Margate, Kent) 1970" at

Thus far, these two previously undocumented elephants have been identified with birth dates and birth locations, a first arrival to the Colchester Zoo, long-term hopes to breed the two animals and a sale to Dreamland's Safari Wild Animal Park. Their two replacements at Colchester have been identified (and will be later discussed at ShowMe Elephants). A prior, undocumented Colchester Zoo elephant has been identified by name and species, though no further information has been discovered at this point. Another prior, undocumented Dreamland elephant has been found without identification.

Rob Vaughan once again provides a lead regarding the elephants of interests.
"I'd be very interested to know what became of these two elephants: Hoffman's Circus had an Asian cow named Toto who was around the right age, but I have nothing to prove that this was the same animal (she later went to Cricket St. Thomas and is still alive and well at Wroclaw Zoo in Poland). Toto's full movements are recorded here: //Rob Vaughan

25.01.90 Cricket St. Thomas
23.02.99 Elche
19.10.99 Estepona
06.04.04 Valladolid
24.10.07 Wroclaw includes this animal, with the addition of her arrival to Circus Hoffman in 1989. The EEP Asian Elephant Studbook lists Toto with Studbook Number 9003 - an estimated birth date of 1960, capture in 1989 and arrival to Cricket St. Thomas in late January 1990. This birth date is near the estimated 1964 birth date given by the Colchester Zoo 1967 Guidebook. Circus Hoffman is not included in her records. However, with the information that the Colchester Zoo, Chipperfield circus family and Hoffman circus family were all involved with the management of Dreamland Safari Wild Animal Park confirm that this is the same animal.

Toto, Wroclaw Zoo, 04/2008
Courtesy of Petra Prager /

All the information discovered and discussed in this article by ShowMe Elephants has thus far been updated at, the largest elephant database online. Asian Elephant Studbook keeper Rob Belterman has also been contacted with this information. Records will continue to be corrected as more information is provided and researched.


  1. Great work, and exciting news. Thanks for your efforts for the elephant community, Ryan!

  2. This is probably the same Maxi that is currently the breeding bull at Zurich Zoo: he was sold by the Chipperfields in 1981 after touring with the circus and a short spell at Longleat. There seems to have been a close relationship between the Chipperfield and Hoffman circuses where elephants were concerned.

    I have no proof that Moto and Maxi were the same animal but it does seem to "fit". They were both said to have come from Thailand and the earliest reference that I have for Maxi is his arrival at Dudley in June 1971 which would ties in well with Moto's departure from Colchester (assuming he was not at Margate for long).

    Also, the aforementioned Ranee who ended up with Toto at Wroclaw arrived at Dudley with Maxi in June 1971. Complicated!

    Moto arrived at Colchester around 1966, but Maxi's date of birth is generally given as 1969/70. This would seem to rule out the possibility of them being the same animal, but the attached scan of the 1981 Zurich annual report cover seems (to me) to show an animal older than 11 years.

  3. Rob,
    What reference do you have for Maxi at Dudley? The EEP Asian Elephant Studbook does not list Maxi at Dudley at all. His birth date is estimated 1969, first arrival to Longleat (a Chipperfield creation) about 1981 and to Zurich in September 1981. A three year estimate on birth year is not far off at all, and I agree that your photograph pictures a male older than 11.

    George Frei's site shows a picture with Mary Chipperfield and states he arrived on the show in 1971.

    Does anyone know of a connection between the Chipperfield family and the Dudley Zoo?

    Thanks for the help! I can't wait to see what you can find out.

  4. The problem with mistakes made, if they are repeated often enough they become fact.
    "Hoffmans Circus, Bernard Bale and Al Verlaine who later opened Cleethorpes Zoo,"...incorrect. Cleethorpes Zoo was open long before Bale and Verlaine turned up.

  5. Jeannie SchweigerSeptember 19, 2011

    Your research into the history of elephants is amazing and so many people providing helpful information. Very interesting blog.

  6. I'm very interested by all of this. Why would they change the name of "Moto" to "Maxi"? It's funny to think that back when those 2 elephants left the zoo they had very poor records kept. I'm glad that they've finally (of sorts) been tracked down.

  7. Sorry, the name of the African elephant was Rosa, not Topaz, she had to be put to sleep about three years due to internal problems.

    I am not a gambling man but I would certainly bet that Moto is indeed Maxi from Circus Hoffman who is now the bull at Zurich Zoo. Unfortunately the person who I contacted cannot remember if Moto is Maxi from Hoffmans. So I have put the feelers out on Facebook, Circus Hoffman(The Mack Family) to see if anyone can shed any light on this. As for the 1973 programme I see that it has been posted in its entirety on this site ([ZooChat] photos section) its the purple cover with the comedy car on the front, it is marked in the corner 1973. The elephant photo shows 7 elephants, one has been cut off on the posting, Duchess,I don't know what happened to her, Toto, sold to Cricket St. Thomas 1989/90, Lulu. Sold to Dublin zoo 1989, Bridget and Nellie, sold to Circus Zavatta along with Tich to the Gartners following the closure of Jeffrey Hoffman's Circus King about 10 years ago, the young bull is also in the line up, Maxi, Moto? hope this is some help, we'll get to the bottom of this I am sure, best wishes, Kevin.

  8. This (and most of my other Dudley information) comes from a keeper who researched the history of elephants at the zoo. Maxi was known as Maknah (Mak) at Dudley, but it's not difficult to see how this became Maxi. He left the zoo for Chipperfield's Circus in Jan 1972 and at some point during the 1970s he was touring with an Irish Circus under the ownership of Ricki McCormick (aka Rikki del Oro) - presumably on loan from the Chipperfields?

    If we can confirm that Moto left Margate for Dudley then I would be fairly certain that Moto and Maxi are one and the same animal.

    During the early 1970s Dudley Zoo was owned by Don Robinson's Scotia group which ran several UK collections. There was a lot of movement of elephants in and out of the zoo: seven animals arrived between June 1971 and June 1973, but only Flossie remained long-term. Most of these animals were sent to Dudley for training and were later sent out to circuses such as Chipperfields, Fossett's and Roberts Bros. There is a definite link with Margate Dreamland as an animal variously named Gay, Mali or Mahali spent the 1972 and 1973 summer seasons at Margate before returning to Dudley in the Autumn (she went to Fossett's Circus in March 1974 and is alive and well at Paignton - again her early movements are missing from the studbook).

    There were large numbers of elephants coming into collections such as Flamingo Park, Cleethorpes and the Chipperfield-owned safari parks during the late 1960s and early 1970s and a great number of these animals are missing from the studbooks.

  9. Thank you both for the further information and some fascinating research.

    Rob, I was reminded that we cannot refer to all the Chipperfield-owned entities as one unit. In the 1950s a portion of the family began their own undertaking. The Chipperfield Circus (that was first discussed on ShowMe Elephants several months ago with the sale of eight elephants to Ringling) can differ from the safari parks around the world, some leased animal acts and other shows under the same surname. This is most certainly the case with Maxi, who was under the direction of Mary Chipperfield.

    I am waiting for approval to access the Hoffman Circus pictures on Facebook which include the 1973 program referred to by Kevin. Today I posted a 2010 picture of Maxi at Zurich courtesy of Petra Prager's online elephant database. I will soon post additional photographs belonging to my father of the Zurich institution from the nineties which include Maxi as well.

  10. Hello Ryan, Will Sinclair has responded to my request regarding Moto/Maxi.He said he has been looking into this and Moto and Maxi are NOT the same animal. He states that the Hoffman's Maxi was purchased by them from Plymouth Zoo, which was owned by Mr. Jimmy Chipperfield in the early seventies. Also Will states that the Hoffman Maxi is NOT the same animal as the Chipperfield Maxi who now resides at Zurich, so if Will is correct we still do not know where Moto went to, Best wishes, Kevin.

  11. I emailed an englishman who earlier updated me on british circus elephants, regarding this issue. He answers: The UK circus programme for 'Enis Togni' of 1972 discusses Mary Chipperfields mixed herd, with the African 'Womba' being 'the oldest' and the youngest being 'the Indian Max(i) at just three.' (I saw this show in Bristol but I was only 9 so memories are hazy).

    Several years later it was reported that a female elephant took exception being mounted by Maxi during a show attended by Princess Anne, resulting in the elephants exiting at a run and briefly out of control. It was not long after that Maxi went to Zurich Zoo and stayed.

    So, unless Maxi was at Dudley as a calf prior to 1972, or held there prior to export to Zurich in ? Moto is another animal. ( Mary Chipperfield (promotions) and Roger Cawley were later reported to be claiming a calf sired by Maxi from Zurich Zoo, but weren't successful).

  12. The elephant,Duchess, from Hoffman's went to Blackpool zoo for a short time in the 70's.Hoffmans would 'rest' their herd at the zoo when playing at the Tower.She easily escaped the exhibit and was transfered to Lambton Lion Park in the North East of England which was created by Jimmy Chipperfield with the Lambton family witin the grounds of Lambton Castle,County Durham.She died in 1980 of peritonitis from supposedly eating glass.
    Glenn Sullivan

  13. Updated with Glenns info.

  14. Hello Ryan, Yes Duchess the Hoffman elephant. It was stated on the Hoffman site that they took her to Blackpool zoo, and later the Hoffmans transported her to Woburn Safari Park, as this was so long ago I queried if it may have been Lambton Lion Park, not Woburn, I was told it may have been Lambton as it was so long ago. For the record Hoffmans never had their elephants appearing at the Blackpool Tower Circus, nor did they ever stable the elephants at Blackpool Zoo, only Duchess went there after her time at Hoffmans. Lambton Lion Park, this safari park is only about 12 miles from where I live, it opened in the early seventies a joint venture between Lord Lambton and Jimmy Chipperfield, who opened several other safari parks in the U.K. at this time. After a few years the Chipperfields left Lambton and the Lambton Estate took full control themselves. Chipperfields took some of the animals with them when they left, i.e. baboons, hippo and the young African elephants. The African elephants were replaced by two Asian elephants, Duchess and Millie, they were walked around an area of the park near the lake where the public could also get out of there cars, I was of coarse a frequent visitor to Lambton Lion Park from when it opened and met Duchess and Millie many times, on one occasion the keeper allowed my teenage girl friend to get on Duchess's back. I did not realise until recently that Duchess at Lambton was the Hoffman Duchess, that goes to prove that you are never to old to learn!, Duchess did unfortunately die at the end of the 19180 season from eating broken glass, Millie was transfered to Cricket St. Thomas Wildlife Park, later to be joined there by another ex Hoffman elephant, Toto. Lambton Lion Park then unfortunately closed down, never to re open, however, the park virtually exists in tact thirty years later, all the roads, fencing and animal houses are still there.
    best wishes, Kevin.

  15. Thank you Dan for updating.

    Interesting that we now have two contradictions regarding the Hoffman elephants and the Blackpool Tower Circus / Blackpool Zoo.

    What a great wealth of information we have acquired here.

  16. Regarding Maxi, I have a picture of him with Mary Chipperfield in Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth, 1975, here:

  17. I have secured better information and Kevin is correct, Hoffmans, didn't perform at the 'tower' nor keep elephants at the zoo.It would have been chipperfield elephants that stayed at the zoo as they were prevented from walking on the beach sometime in the 80's.I was only passing on what I had been told.Great blog Ryan.
    Glenn Sullivan

  18. Mark TwitchettDecember 13, 2011

    The two asian elephants, Moto (f) and Toto (m), from
    Colchester Zoo were sold to Circus Hoffman by the zoo's owner Frank Farrar. Here they joined another
    asian Nellie that came from Jimmy Chipperfield's
    Southampton Zoo and was trained by Charles Illeneb who had his own brown bear act with them in 1969. They were trained and presented as a group of three by Jeffrey Hoffman in, I think, 1972 but the following year there were just two
    until more youngsters were added in around '74.
    Mark Twitchett, Colchester, UK

  19. Rikki del Oro is my uncle. Having travelled with Maxi certainly for 1975 & 76 he was sold to Fossett's in Ireland and later died supposedly of pneumonia.

  20. I travelled with toto lulu nellie bridgit and titch in the 70s with circus hoffman i was there keeper.I would love to know where they are today.

  21. I travelled gb with toto lulu nellie bridgit and titch in the 70s i was there keeper and groomed them with a wire brush that they loved! I would love to know where they all ended up.I know lulu died and toto in poland but where is bridgit the footballer and brains of the outfit? Toto was always a nasty character who enjoyed flattening you with her trunk.


I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.