Denise Austin

Denise Austin

This pattern celebrates the life of Denise Austin (unknown-1997), the compassionate Irish zoo worker.

During the Second World War, the government ordered the death of all of the animals in Belfast zoo in case they escaped in the aftermath of the Blitz bombings.

Distraught at this prospect, Austin defied instruction and smuggled home a baby elephant called Shelia.

Although Shelia often ventured out on evening walks, her existence remained largely unknown to her neighbours.

By the time Austin was forced to return Shelia to the zoo, the elephant’s life was no longer at risk and resultantly both Austin and Shelia survived the war!

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