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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
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Elephant on Pinellas beach part of birthday party

— The mystery behind the video of an elephant wading in the Gulf this past weekend appears to have been solved.

The short video set off an Internet stampede over the weekend, and now a letter submitted to the Redington Beach Town Commission in January confirms that the pachyderm was indeed in town for a beach party.

The letter is dated Jan. 22, and was written by Redington Beach resident Claudia McCorkle, who was asking permission to bring an elephant to her waterfront home on May 17, the day of her 60th birthday celebration. McCorkle said she was hoping to rent the elephant from Orlando-area party rental provider Xtreme Entertainment to provide “a bit of extra ‘joie de vivre’” for the celebration.

“For the most part, the animal would merely be hanging out right outside my home by the seawall, with some adventurous guests riding her strictly on my ‘riparian rights-deeded area’ directly behind the house,” she wrote.

At some point, the elephant apparently took a dip. The bizarre incident had beachgoers amazed and provided an instant viral hit for an opportunistic visitor.

Todd Unbehagen was with his family when he shot video of an elephant wading in the water off North Redington Beach. As he shot the video, folks began to gather around, taking in the rare sight and speculating how the curious behemoth made its way into the water.

Unbehagen’s explanation, which he posted on his Facebook page:

“We were walking down the beach, and someone had a private party at their beach house with an elephant...So, we stopped for a while to take pictures. You don’t see this every day!!!”

Included were fun photos of Unbehagen with his family, and a selfie — both with the elephant seemingly providing the ultimate “photo-bomb.”

Millions have been checking out the video, which is being distributed across social media and news outlets.

According to the rental facility’s website, the elephant comes from “a reputable elephant owner and is approved by the USDA and Florida Fish and Wildlife” and the starting price for an “elephant encounter” is $5,000. The facility also loans out a sloth, performing sea lions, a black bear, big cats and a capuchin monkey. Non-sentient rentals include foam parties, sea planes and rock climbing walls.

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