Long-awaited elephant sculpture arrives in Haddonfield

Parade, costume party help welcome newest addition to children’s zoo.

Safe at home, baby Ndotto finally took his place among the animals already stationed within the Children’s Sculpture Zoo along Kings Highway East. Celebrating the 450-pound bronze sculpture’s arrival in Haddonfield and the real Ndotto’s seventh birthday on Aug. 5 are: Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust Chairman Stuart Harting (top left), Ash Harting (top right), Brooks Harting (bottom left) and Liliana Harting (bottom right).

What’s 54 inches tall, 54 inches long, 35 inches wide and expected to coexist with a giraffe, bunny, toad, sea lion, and griffins in a peaceful grotto located off Kings Highway?

A 450-pound bronze likeness of rescued African elephant Baby Ndotto, of course. 

On the morning of Aug. 5, the statue, which was the subject of more conjecture about its whereabouts than Carmen Sandiego, was finally installed within the Children’s Sculpture Zoo. 

“A lot of you don’t know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, in terms of sourcing these beautiful works of art, all around the country, all around the world,” noted Commissioner for Public Works Frank Troy. “The goal is to transform this walkable, attractive and historically significant borough into a center for juried outdoor sculpture in the great tradition of public art.

“What Stuart (Harting, chairman for Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust) and his team do is make Haddonfield better than how they found it, which is what we all strive for in life,” Troy added.

Found wandering in Kenya’s remote Ndoto hills at just 48 hours old — alone, motherless and scared — the elephant was rescued by local tribesmen, rehabilitated at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and named Baby Ndotto — “our little dream.”  

The story of his rescue inspired a pair of Australian sculptors to create an exhibit of 21 lifesize bronze elephants that became the toast of London, raising funds and awareness for the endangered animals.  

Having seen images of the original work, the Haddonfield trust wanted one for the sculpture zoo and raised more than $20,000 in private donations — thanks in large part to residents Joe Murphy and Lisa Wolschina and the First Colonial Community Bank and Surety Title Charitable Foundation — to bring one of only three of the castings in the world to the borough. The other two will find homes in New York and London.

Installation day in the borough just happened to be on the real-life Ndotto’s seventh birthday and was marked with a parade in the downtown area starting from the Haddy sculpture, followed by a celebration featuring costumes, masks, toys, water ice and popcorn. 

Hundreds packed the shady getaway, from borough officials to little children gazing wondrously at nature so close at hand. 

“It feels great (to see the process come to fruition), because there were a lot of moving parts,” Harting said proudly. “It’s taken a long time for us to get here. We’re very lucky the weather held for us, we were lucky so many people came out and the kids are really enjoying themselve.”

Originally due to arrive in April, the sculpture’s delivery was constantly disrupted by the pandemic. Ndotto’s travels were slowed while stationed on a container ship that  meandered from Beijing through the Yellow, East China and Philippine seas, across the Pacific Ocean to Cartagena, down to South America and through the Panama Canal. 

The final leg of his journey saw Ndotto sailing between Cuba and Haiti, past the Bahamas and then north in the Atlantic Ocean to the Port of Elizabeth, where he was inspected by U.S. Customs. 

Finally, he was taken by truck to Philadelphia and then brought across the Delaware to Haddonfield. While Ndotto was sailing the globe, a naming contest announced this past spring received hundreds of entries. The most popular were various versions of Ndotto, such as Haddondotto or Ndoto Kidogo, while others pleaded to keep the Ndotto name. 

Constructed in a sitting position, the sculpture will offer children a chance to sit in Ndotto’s lap, and those looking for some good luck can wrap their arms around him. 

“Let this be a lesson to all of us,” Troy noted. “If a giraffe, elephant, frog and a rabbit can live in harmony in this small patch of land, then maybe there’s hope for all of mankind.”

For more information about the Sheldrick Trust, go  to  https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/. To learn more about Australian artists Gillie and Marc, visit www.us.gillieandmarc.com. And for more about HOST, access  www.HaddonfieldSculpture.org.