The Oklahoma City Zoo began when a single deer was donated to a neighborhood park. Because deer were rare in 1902, crowds flocked to see the creature. Soon other people in Oklahoma Territory began donating native animals such as bears, golden eagles, and wolves. By 1903, the little menagerie became known as Wheeler Park Zoo, the first zoo in the Southwest. During its next 50 years, the zoo endured flooding, relocation, and tough economic slumps brought on by wars and the Dust Bowl. The zoo survived, however, because it provided a fun, relaxing place where people could go to escape from daily life. The community, in turn, rallied to help the zoo by donating precious pocket change to buy food and purchase new animals. Children, especially, were responsible for bringing some of the zoo’s most memorable animals to Oklahoma City, especially Judy the Elephant acquired through "Children's Pennies for a New Elephant" campaign.
At the time of her death, 49 year old Tanzy was the second oldest African elephant in North America. She had a history of aggression with the Abilene Zoo's other elephant Tanya. Tanzy had been transferred to the zoo in Texas from Oklahoma City be a companion animal for Tanya, two months before the Oklahoma City Zoo purchased half sisters Asha and Chandra from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri. Tanya was kept as a single elephant after Connie was relocated to the Springfield zoo as part of a building breeding program. Two months after Tanzy's death, Tanya was transferred to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, to replace Zoe. In October 2007, Zoe was transferred to the Kansas City Zoo under breeding loan arrangements, a Missouri zoo which held the largest herd of African elephants within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.