Elephants: A New Beginning

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How does one write about moving elephants you’ve taken care of from a home they have known for over 25 years and one that I have worked in for almost 18 years? There are so many cliches that fit this situation, but none of them feels right.

On Thursday, May 7, the elephant keepers for the Zoo started work at 5 a.m. We did our normal routine that we have been doing for years. We put the girls in their barn and cleaned their yard. We readied their crates, and at around 6 a.m. we started to load them. By 6:45 they were all secure in their crates and the cranes were called to lift them onto their trucks for the quick trip to Elephant Odyssey.

After all were put on the truck, we walked with them on their short trip. They were a bit nervous, which was expected, but seemed to be doing well. We arrived at our new home around 8:30 a.m. and proceeded to unload and introduce them to Elephant Odyssey.

Sumithi was the first to be unloaded, and she did very well. We opened up her crate and she backed out and went right to her keeper. After letting her check out the facility for a bit, we moved on to letting Devi out. She, too, was put into position, door opened, and she back out just as Sumithi had done and went to her keeper. Devi and Sumithi were put together and they chirped and barked at their reintro to each other.

Now there was one more door to open and the three would once again be together. Tembo was unloaded the same as the other two and without any problems. She was sent to me inside the facility, and she came right away. Other than some little baby steps as she exited the crate, she seemed okay. We opened up the doors where the other two had been kept and all seemed happy to be with each other again! There was lots of vocalizing, but they quickly settled in and checked out the area. We opened up a door and gave them access to one of the staging areas outside, and all three came out and went to their keepers. All of this was done by 9:30 a.m., and to say we were happy is a gross understatement. We were ecstatic with the move. More than a year of planning had resulted in the move going off without a hitch. Our girls are in their new home and so am I!

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous blog, Elephants: They’re Here