Asian elephant escapes New York sanctuary

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An Asian elephant named Fritha wandered away from an animal sanctuary in Westtown, N.Y., Nov. 11, 2018. (New York State Police)

The elephant-in-the-roadway call to which New York State Police Sgt. Dave Scott responded Sunday represented the first call of that variety he'd answered in his 22-year career.

"We get a lot of calls for horses in the roadway, cattle, various animals," he said.

But when patrolling the area in and around Westtown, about 70 miles northwest of New York City, a loose Asian elephant sighting falls outside the realm of normal.

"I responded. And there was definitely an elephant in the roadway," Scott said.

Amanda Brook said her grandmother got Fritha in the 1970s. Brook is Fritha's third-generation keeper.

"Fritha came to us when she was 200 pounds, 30 inches tall and had severe napalm burns over her back and her face and scarring."

Hit with napalm and orphaned as a calf during the Vietnam War, Fritha immigrated to the United States to the 270-acre Sanctuary for Animals, which rents out 10 percent of its menagerie for movies and commercials to support this reserve of neglected, abused, and abandoned animals.

"We have everything from camels to cockroaches and an elephant," Brook said.

After Fritha's dinner Sunday, one of her keepers forgot to turn on the electric fence, which produces a noise Fritha never forgets.

"Elephants are extremely smart," Brook said. "She knew the clicking noise was off."

So Fritha took a stroll, snagged a bale of hay from the sanctuary's $5,000 bi-weekly delivery, and moseyed across the road to her outdoor pen to enjoy her midnight snack.

"I'm familiar with the elephant. I'm familiar with the area," Scott said. "Been here a long time."

The sergeant called Brook, who led Fritha home.

"The police blocked the road for us," Brook said.

No persons or animals were injured and no property was destroyed.

"I actually expected this. I figured in the last 22 years that I've been here, I figured that it would happen at some point," Scott said. "And it did."