Austrian minister thanks elephant that aided virus guidance

VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s economy minister has become the symbolic godmother of a young elephant, in a nod of thanks after the government used a cartoon of the large mammal as a reference to help people put pandemic distancing recommendations into perspective.

Margarete Schramboeck was named godmother to Kibali the elephant in a ceremony at Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo on Monday. In order to help Austrians envision keeping the recommended one-meter (3.28 feet) apart, Schramboeck said authorities had spread the message it was “the length of a baby elephant.”

A government video had showed a cartoon of a baby elephant to drive the point home.

Schramboeck said “most people, and certainly myself, thought of Kibali.”

Now one year old, Kibali has grown past the Austrian coronavirus distance guidance to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) long, but zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck noted her trunk is now exactly a half-meter (1.64 feet) long.

He says: “maybe from now on we can say you have to keep as much distance as two Kibali trunks.”

Schramboeck was given a watercolor of the elephant, and Kibali was given a cake of hay, fruit and vegetables to celebrate the occasion.

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