Monday, December 15, 2008

Arthur Jones and Jumbolair

Before animals and Mr Jones, the owner was the society lady, Muriel Vanderbilt Adams. The great-great-granddaughter of the founder of the Vanderbilt fortune, Adams wintered here and raised exotic birds. For a brief spell, Jumbolair was owned by Jose Antonio Fernandez, the Miami ringleader of a large drug operation. Today the owner is Terri Thayer.

Thayer was 18 when she married 57-year-old Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment. They bought the property in 1980 and before long, the wealthy couple had created a farm country curiosity: airport, private home, wild animal sanctuary and celebrity resort.

Arthur Jones kept a gorilla, three white rhinos, 600 crocodiles and 500 snakes on his farm, a 550-acre estate in Marion County, as well as 17 african elephants. In 1984, the couple flew their Boeing 707 to Zimbabwe and airlifted a herd of baby elephants slated for government slaughter. The rescue was featured on ABC's 20/20. In all, 98 elephants lived at Jumbolair, which was more than the total population if african elephants in all Zoos in Northamerica.

According to Dale Tuttle, director of Springfield Zoo, 10 elephants died between 1984 and 1987 from transport stress, wounds and diseases. 37 elephants were sold to Zoos and Circuses before 1987 and 49 elephants were still at the farm when Mr Tuttle visited. According to Mr Tuttle their health was excellent, each one of the elephants had individual collars and check-ups, and they were managed by elephant keepers, special dentists, and the veterinairy university of Gainesville.

Jones' personal cache is estimated at $125 million. "How much I am worth is nobody's business," says Jones, who also will not admit to being in his early 60s. "My age is nobody's business, either."

And if he could manage it, he would also hide his elephants from prying "dumb-dumbs," a favorite description through one of his least graphic. But 90 elephants are highly visible, as are his breeding pair of rhinos, an 18-year-old gorilla named Mickey who whiles away time watching the Chicago Cubs on television, scores of record-size snakes and pits full of yawning crocodiles, including the world's biggest at over 17 feet.

All live with him in a sparsely settled area north of Ocala, at a place he calls Jumbolair. It is a 600-acre compound dissected by a mile-and-a-quarter private runway to accommodate two Boeing 707s bearing the Nautilus sea-shell logo. When pilot Jones revs up a 707 for takeoff, its four engines rattle the china and crystal chadeliers in his adjacent 14-room mansion.

For many of th elephants, revving up the 707s must bring back memories. Last July, Jones flew 63 of them out of Zimbabwe on a 22-hour, high-altitude safari to Jumbolair.

"i did it to save them from being killeD, he says. "I love elephants, and I don't want to see the species become extinct."

But he admits to another reason, after explaining that nobody, not even Arthur Jones, "keeps 90 elephants as a hobby."

They, and his other exotic acquisitions, are used for research. "And that is all I will sau on that subject, except to explain we do not do any vivisection or other cutting up."

A raised eyebrow sets Jones off on a favorite subject, honesty:

"Because I am against making money? No, because I am against fraud, against deception. I am honest beyond your ability to comprehend the term."
24 years ago Arthur Jones flew 63 baby elephants out of Africa to "save their lives." And apparently had over 90 at one time. How many are alive today?


Big Al said...

I find records of 46. I have no idea where the 90 figure came from.

of the 46 elephants 29 are still alive. 10 of the 17 elephants that have died have no name listed and no date of death. Leading me to believe that they died very young possibly during their transportation to the U.S. I have no proof of this just my thought.

Big Al said...

Of the 7 elephants that died with a date listed 6 lived longer then the median 16.9 years of the "European Zoos" 17, 19, 21 23, 25 and 26 . Only 1 died younger at age 14.

The rest of the 29 elephants still alive range in ages from 26 to 30 years old all well above the ages given in the study.

My study is no less scientific the the European study.

B.E.Trumble said...

Big Al's number -- somewhere around 50 sounds a bit more plausible than 90something. But again, the Vet School records at UF should have some real numbers. Certainly would put it past Jones to have inflated the number. He was an animal dealer before he made his fitness fortune and literal truth never stopped most dealers from telling a good story.

Wade G. Burck said...

Ben and Big Al,
According to Dale Tuttles numbers there were 96. 10 died, 37 sold, 49 that he counted still there? Were the ones sold, sold to private individuals or to zoo's? A point is that the records kept for captive animals in the past was quite checkered. We dispute the findings of the studies, yet have sketchy at best records to validate the captive claims. Jackpots are a circus phenomena, not much good world wide for validating anything.

Wade G. Burck said...

Is anyone quoting Dan Koehls data base of 36 elephants relocated and 10 deaths for a total of 46 elephants?
Of th 36 elephants listed as surviving 17 went into private hands, and 17 went to zoos, and two went to a sanctuary. Of the 7 deaths listed of those 36, 5 occurred in private hands, 1 at the sanctuary, and 1 at a zoo.

Wade G. Burck said...

In reference to Joneses integrity, I will refer you to this quote: "No, because I am against fraud, against deception. I am honest beyond your ability to comprehend the term."
Are you trying to tell us, that interview's are self serving, and not to be taken to serious? Some folks chose the best 0 the best based on such things. How can they not be true?

Steve said...

Is there any way of finding out just how many Africans were imported without any doubts?

On Big Al's figures we appear to be looking at what might have been a worthwhile exercise. How do we find out for sure?

Also, is there any way of establishing how many of the imports went on to breed?

This data, if able to be proven accurate, might be very useful in the not too distant future.

Wade G. Burck said...

I sincerely doubt there will ever be much verifiable documented information, and I think if there was it would not be of much use to "the good guys". Much like the 47 Asian babies I saw in 1975. That is a well know fact as the effort was to have 50 by 1976 to celebrate the 50th year in show business. I often times think that is why "history"(as Dick Flint suggests) is overlooked or avoided, and jackpots can be "doctored" much like a biased research report. I think there are few industries that depend almost solely on "antidotes" and unverifiable facts for it's history as ours does.

Dan Koehl said...

5 years later, a small update: Ryan and me has worked more on that list, its now upto 51 documented animals, 21 still living. I have contacted the Vet School at UF, and kindly asked them for more info.

Dan Koehl said...

The Vet School at UF never replied, maybe you have more luck if you contact them?

Wade G. Burck said...

Dan, I contacted them twice without receiving a reply. It is almost like the want to distance themselves...........


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what year Dale Tuttle visited the farm?

F.J. Busalacchi said...

FYI:THE PREVIOUS STATEMENT IS FALSE.I happened to be one of the Elephant Handlers at Jumbo lair & Arthur had approx.30 grown up elephants & 63 flown from Africa.I have been working on putting a scrap book together regd. this topic.I worked for Arthur for approx. 6 yrs.After working there it is amazing the info.the press etc. puts our that is false.I can be contacted by email, Frank B.

F.J. Busalacchi said...

FYI:For info.I was employed by Arthur Jones & his elephant handler.I have many pictures & topic.I am not for sure there was a accurate count on elephants that may have died.The majority of fatality was the babies that were flown there.Most due to being weaned from the Mother elephants.I have many pics.I am working with to build a scrap book.For more info I can be contacted at; Thanks Frank B.

Kimberly Wysong said...

What happened to the animals after Arthur Jones death?

scottford said...

I met Arthur Jones at Jumbolair in the late 1970s when he was looking for financing for his "Nautilus For The Home" business. He was a nasty old guy, and when I told him I had watched his "Wild Cargo" television show back in the 1960s, his only comment was, "You're dating yourself." When I told him that suppliers who provided steel and other products used in the manufacture of his products would need some information about his company's sales and certain other financial information, he said, "Tell them it's none of their damn business." That was the end of my interest in lending him money.

I didn't eet his wife, Terri, but saw posters of her wearing a bikini. sold them or gave them away, but I thought that was inappropriate. His slogan seemed to be "Faster Planes and Younger Women." When his son, who was very nice, offered to take me and my two colleagues to see his crocodile collection, he told his son to "weigh them [us] before they get near the crocs."

Nice guy, eh?"

Cheri Keaster said...

Do you know if the Elephant known as Nosey was with a Elephant know as Sukari were together when they came to the USA As babies