Does the jovial fellow riding Ambika the elephant look familiar? It's Fred Rogers, leaving his neighborhood for a visit to the National Zoological Park in the spring of 1982. The host of the children's show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood met giraffes, tigers, and lions as well as pachyderms Ambika and Shanthi; Keepers Jim Jones and Barbara Bingham were featured guests.
Despite rainy conditions, everything went smoothly until the elephant ride. According to The Torch:
As soon as Mr. Rogers was perched atop Ambika's back, she decided she wanted a bath and lumbered eagerly towards the pool. While zoo keepers headed her off, "little" (4,000 pound) Shanthi's curiousity was piqued by the cameraman and his fascinating equipment. As she set off to investigate, our fleet-of-foot staffers quickly foiled a farcical finale.
The episode filmed at the zoo was titled Mr. Rogers Talks About Pets, broadcast on June 4, 1982. You can a find a synopsis at The Neighborhood Archive.
Shanthi and Ambika still live at the National Zoological Park, enjoying their new home, the Elephant Trails exhibit. Now Shanthi is up to 9,000 pounds!
- Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives