Over the weekend, folks out in Redington Beach, Florida were astonished to see a lone elephant standing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico without immediate explanation about how it got there. Photos and video from the surreal scene quickly went viral -- a dignified animal basking along the shore, seemingly liberated and at peace.
But as it turns out, that impression is a false one. With a little bit of the backstory explained, this photo quickly becomes one of the saddest images of an elephant ever taken.
The cost? $5,000.
Records indicate that back in January, resident Claudia McCorkle requested and received permission from the town commission to allow for an elephant to attend her birthday bash, which she said would involve the animal "hanging out right outside my home by the seawall, with some adventurous guests riding her".
Evidently, at some point between the forced interactions with partygoers, the elephant was allowed to wander away from its keepers and the bustling festivities to wet his feet in the ocean -- likely a rare moment of relative solace for an intelligent creature whose purpose has been reduced to being exploited for entertainment.