It took five hours after arriving in San Antonio for the elephants to make their way to Brackenridge Park, as Romero was wild and frightened by the automobile headlights. The two elephants had only been in captivity for 11 months prior to their arrival, three of which were spent traveling. It took three weeks before Romero got over his fright. His first short walk out of his pen failed, and he broke away and ran back to the pen. Cindra on the other hand learned quickly, was supposedly fond of children, and followed his trainer around like a dog. He learned tricks very quickly, but would demand a reward of sugar for performing.
They varied about a decade in age, Cindra arriving somewhere around the age of three, Romero around the age of 15. It was likely Cindra’s young age and the lacking presence of an official elephant barn that led to the cause of his death by pneumonia a year later in the winter of 1926. His head was later mounted in the Witte Museum for an undetermined length of time. Its current location is unknown.
By 1929, following the recent death of a woman by circus elephant, Black Diamond, Romero was deemed potentially dangerous and placed in chains as a safeguard. In one article, published in October of 1929, C.F. Fulton, superintendent of the zoo stated, “He is not dangerous now but he may become so at any time, maybe tomorrow, and maybe five years from today.” [Source] Even in 1929, some argued that the elephant’s brain was being affected by loneliness.
Romero chained – October 30, 1929
The propriety of chaining Romero was discussed at length by the City Park Board, in front of then Mayor C.M. Chamber at city hall, as well as by the Zoological Society, as the formal opening of the new zoo attractions at Brackenridge Park were pending.
Members of the society were divided on this issue.
One side claimed the martingale chains (a style of chaining that extended from his two tusks through rings in his forelegs to a band that encircled his waist) in which Romero was held were not inhuman or inconvenient for the elephant, Fulton stating, “He is chained in such a way that he cannot raise his head high enough to run or strike anyone. He can walk and can raise his head to a normal weight. He can eat, sleep and live a normal life with the chains on him as I have placed them.”
Further, the excuse was given that “A male elephant when it reached the age of [Romero] is liable to become unruly at any time. In placing the chains on him now before he injures or kills anyone… I have applied an ancient quotation that ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’” [Source]
Opponents to his chaining, such as F.A. Sullivan, member of Zoological Society, characterized the act as inhumane and argued that Romero had not shown any signs of becoming unruly. A park commissioner who had been watching Romero every day backed this by saying Romero “looks mighty quiet to me” and he didn’t see any reason for the chains. Park Commissioner, now Jacob Rubiola, went as far to mention his discussions with an animal expert who told him that Romero was one of the kindliest elephants in captivity.
By July of 1936, controversies of chaining the elephant subsided with the opening of the new elephant exhibit, which featured an elephant barn and a pool surrounded by a moat. This is the same location the elephants have resided in ever since. At one point shortly after his placement in the new exhibit, Romero fell in the moat and had to be rescued by his caretakers who placed a truckload of dirt in the moat so that he could climb out.
In 1939, rumors of bringing in a baby elephant were swirling, but it was not to be, as the zoo was handicapped by a lack of funds. By 1940, it became evident that the zoo would be trading Romero off for three female, Asian circus elephants, owned by Meems Bros. & Ward of New York.
The trade was kept under wraps for a time, but when word spread that Romero was to be traded off, the voices of San Antonio school children of years gone by protested the sale. They argued that he schools had taken up a collection of $1,000 to bring the male elephant in, and as such were entitled to his relocation. They stated that “This elephant is among the largest in the United States. This is something to be proud of. We ask, won’t you help us keep you and our elephant.”
The zoo, however, argued that the $200 sale and trade of the elephant was deemed best, as nearly all male zoo elephants proved dangerous. Meems Bros. & Ward resold the elephant to a zoo in Springfield, Missouri. The first attempt to move the pachyderm failed, as Romero proved too large for the freight car he was to be transported in. He was one of the largest, male Asian elephants in the United States at that time. Meanwhile, the three elephants had already arrived from the San Francisco World Fair. Zoo officials also noted that three trained elephants from Frank Buck’s Jungleland Act at the New York World’s Fair were also under negotiation for transfer to San Antonio.
On October 14, 1940, a second attempt to transfer Romero was underway. Chains and shackles were installed in the van and Romero’s tusks were chained down as a precaution. After effort to persuade the elephant’s front feet in the van proved successful, Romero balked. The handlers attempted to back him down the gangway for another try, but the elephant began attacking the truck with his head. “He then wheeled about and charged his keeper…[who] was knocked to the ground but escaped being seriously injured because the elephant’s tusks were chained.” [Source]
“Because he had attacked five other men in the last six months,” at the order of the zoo’s president, Romero was shot behind the ear with a rifle, and then a second time through the heart, supposedly killing him instantly. The president said, “Circus and animal men had advised execution of the 30-year-old”elephant. [Source] It is possible that his head was also eventually mounted at the Witte Museum.
Years later, zoo director Fred Stark commented on male elephants, stating that“he want[ed] no male elephant anywhere around… They all get mean. Years ago we had a male elephant here and, among other things, he would pick up stones and sticks with his trunk and hurl them at people. He could throw 50 feet or farther and his aim was might good. He was very dangerous.” [Source]