USF Curiosities: An elephant on the roof?

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From the beginning, USF faculty members have proved themselves to be resourceful and imaginative instructors. So, when an elephant passed away at nearby Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, USF’s biology professors saw this as a unique opportunity…

Paul Griscti, who came to USF as a student in 1969, worked for the college news bureau in the early 1970s. In the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, Griscti recalls constantly coming across interesting stories and anecdotal data. One particular story stuck out. As he walked around the Tampa campus, he remembers a distinctive, unpleasant smell coming from the direction of the Life Sciences building.

Come to find out, that distinctive smell was indeed coming from the roof of the Life Sciences building. After an elephant at Busch Gardens passed away, the professors of the biology department asked Busch Gardens to donate the elephant’s body to USF. Busch Gardens agreed and the elephant’s body became an instructional tool for biology students. Due to its size and the need to limit access to the site of the experiment, it was decided that the elephant’s body would be placed on the roof of the Life Sciences building.

An image of one campus building as it appeared in the 1960s with a cartoon elephant placed on the roof

Once there, faculty and students conducted experiments and observed the process of decomposition. While the roof provided students with a unique learning opportunity, “it was a little odoriferous at times (laughs).”[1]


Learn more about the fascinating, and sometimes curious, events that occurred here at the University of South Florida by listening to the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, housed in Digital Collections.


Want more USF Curiosities? Check out the posts in this series:



[1] Griscti, Paul. (2004, April 21). Paul Griscti, Interviewed by Danielle Riley  [Transcript]. USF 50th (2006) Anniversary Oral History Project (U23-00057). USF Digital Collections, Tampa, FL. p. 6.

Image note: While this image is not of the Life Sciences building, it is of one of the original USF buildings. The image used is USF Digital Collections’, “Walkways leading to Fine Arts Building” (U10-00130) with an added elephant element ( “Baby Elephant Elephant Cute” by creozavr of


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