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About Author: Ron Ringer

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42

Elephant Shaba Meets the Girls

The elephants of Elephant Odyssey

The elephants of Elephant Odyssey

It has been almost a year since Shaba made her trip from Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona (see post Elephant Moves) to her new home in the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey. Shaba is a 33-year-old African female who had lived at Reid Park her entire life with her best friend, Connie, an Asian elephant, who passed away from cancer about 5 months after their arrival here (see post Elephant ICU Loses a Member). Since then, we have been working hard to get Shaba acclimated to Elephant Odyssey and to the other four females who live here. They are Mary, a 49-year-old Asian elephant who is the herd’s matriarch, Sumithi, a 46-year-old Asian elephant, Tembo, a 42-year-old African elephant, and Devi, a 36-year-old Asian elephant.

Shaba is a very sweet elephant and works well with her keepers, but she had never been around any other elephants except Connie. We knew it was important for her to get to know everyone quickly, because she needed the socialization that all female elephants require. Our plan was to start her out with an introduction to Mary and then slowly introduce her to Sumithi, Devi, and lastly, Tembo. The initial introduction to Mary went very well—Mary told her who was boss and Shaba accepted that right away! Then it was just a matter of the two getting to know each other. Mary was really good about defining Shaba’s place in Mary’s yard—“all the food is mine, and I will let you have some of it.”

As time went by, the two started spending nights together, and we could see that Shaba was very happy to be around Mary; in turn, Mary was very tolerant of the newbie. After several weeks, we included Sumithi into the group. It also went well as long as Shaba did not get too close to Sumithi’s food. Sumithi would remind Shaba of this by chasing her around the yard. This was pretty funny, because Shaba could really run, and at best, Sumithi could work up a slow saunter. Sumithi got her point across, though, and the three became a workable group pretty quickly. They, too, started spending nights together and all went well.

Then it was Devi’s turn. It was going to be interesting, because Devi had, in the past, gone after the new elephants with a reckless abandon. This never worked out for her, but she tried. When she was put into the group of Mary, Sumithi, and Shaba, Devi was immediately on the defensive. She ran right away from Shaba, who wasn’t sure how to react. No elephant had ever run from her before! Shaba slowly worked her way over to Devi and touched her, and Devi submitted right away. Shaba then spent the next several weeks getting to know Devi, standing next to her, eating from the same spot, and if one of the other elephants started to chase Shaba, she would seek Devi out and use her as a comfort zone.

This went on for several weeks, and then it was time to introduce Tembo. This was a big deal because Tembo likes to charge now, ask questions later. We were prepared for any problems; it was all hands on deck for the elephant staff. We let Tembo into the yard with the other four girls, and she immediately went to the food and started to eat. She basically paid no attention to Shaba, although Shaba was keeping a close eye on her. It went very well for a while, and then Shaba approached Tembo, and Tembo chased her all over the yard. Luckily, Shaba is a lot faster than Tembo and ran away from her. Tembo ran out of steam pretty quickly, and all settled down. These days, the new group is still establishing itself, but Shaba has learned to move out of the way when Tembo comes near. You can see all of our female elephants together in the morning and afternoon. We still have not kept them all together overnight, but that is the next goal of ours.

Shaba has settled in very well. She looks to Mary now as her protector and companion. She gets along pretty well with all the other elephants, but when one decides to get a little pushy, which happens in elephant herds, she immediately runs to Mary. At night, we keep Mary and Shaba together, and we have even witnessed both of them lying side by side at night to sleep. This is GOOD! We will continue to monitor the females as we head into the future, and the future looks really bright for our female herd at Elephant Odyssey.

Ron Ringer is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Elephant Ranchipur: Healing Nicely.

29

Elephant Ranchipur: Healing Nicely

Ranchipur enjoys a cleansing spray of water.

For those of you who have visited the San Diego Zoo lately and not seen our magnificent male Asian elephant, Ranchipur…well, he had to go into our Special Needs Facility for a surgical procedure on his left front shoulder. In February 2011, we noticed a lump there, which we began treating and monitoring. About two months later, when the lump opened up on its own, and we knew it was an abscess, we began doing hydrotherapy and flushing it daily with a diluted disinfectant solution. Many of you probably saw us treating his shoulder in the Elephant Care Center stall area, since we always did it right there in front of our guests. We were not sure what had initially caused the abscess; we just wanted it to heal, even though Ranchipur was always very compliant during the treatment. After our veterinarians brought in a specialist to look at it, the decision was made to open up the abscess, clean it out, and leave the incision open so it would heal from the inside out.

Our veterinary staff decided we would do a “standing sedation” on him in our Special Needs Facility. This meant that he would go into the chute, be given a sedative, but he would still remain standing so we could access the shoulder. This involved taking him off exhibit for about three weeks while several keepers trained him for the procedure. On September 18, 2012, we brought him into the chute area, gave him a sedative, and started the surgery. There were close to 30 people on hand to assist in the process.

Once Ranchipur was secure and sedated, his shoulder was injected with a local anesthetic, and the surgery began. Everyone on the team had their assignments: one group monitored his breathing and anesthesia, another did an ultrasound image of the shoulder area before it was opened, vet techs worked at getting blood samples while another vet did a full physical exam. Lastly, the surgeons worked on the shoulder. Once they removed what was an encapsulated abscess about the size of a tennis ball and the area was cleaned up, the wound was flushed and left open to heal.

We do this because an elephant’s skin does not take well to being stitched up, and in this particular area on his body there is a lot of movement, so it would be difficult to keep it closed with sutures. We did give him a few sutures inside the wound at the very top, but the major portion of the incision was left open. This gives us the opportunity to flush it out daily with a hose and antiseptic solution. The surgery went great, Ranchipur recovered nicely, and he is now back on exhibit in his yard next to the dromedary camels and pronghorn in Elephant Odyssey.

When you visit, you may see that his shoulder still has an open wound. It may take several months for the wound to totally heal. We will continue to treat and take care of his shoulder until the day it completely heals. If you have any questions, make sure you ask one of us keepers who work in Elephant Odyssey.

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Zoo Elephants: Ranchipur.

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Zoo Elephants: Ranchipur

Ranchipur: Boys will be boys!

The San Diego Zoo’s male Asian elephant, Ranchipur, is a striking individual with a really good temperament. He cooperates with his keepers and allows us to take care of him on a daily basis. Many zoos across the country have males that are much more aggressive and difficult to work with because…they are male elephants!

It is not unusual for male Asian elephants to be in a period of heightened hormonal activity called musth. This is a time in a male’s life where he has lots of testosterone coursing through his body, and it really affects his mood and personality. This period can last from 2 to 12 months.

Ranchipur usually comes into musth around the end of July to the beginning of August. He first arrived at the Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey from our Safari Park in April 2009. He was quick to explore all of our yards and pools. Ranchipur showed signs of his first musth here at the end of July that year, and it lasted for about two months, but he continued to cooperate with the keepers, and we were able to care for him as we do for all of our elephants.

In 2010, for some reason, he did not come into musth. This was too bad, because we were hoping for the weight loss that usually accompanies musth. At one point he actually tipped the scale at almost 12,980 pounds (5,900 kilograms). That is too much to weigh for a 45-year-old elephant who has some hip problems. After his previous musth, he had lost almost 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms).

Since he didn’t come into musth, we had to try something else to get the weight off. He usually spent the nights with one of the females, but he also ate all of her food! We decided to start separating them at night to make sure each ate his or her own diet. Over the next several months Ranchipur did start to lose weight but was still pretty heavy. On July 28, 2011, he started to give off that familiar smell that is associated with musth. Then the tell-tale signs occurred: he started dribbling urine and secreting a foul-smelling substance from the temporal glands on each side of his head. At this point it was all we could do to transfer him between his exhibit and the one next door for cleaning. His appetite decreased to nothing, and he basically stared at the girls all day.

One day we decided to put our African elephant, Tembo, next to him to see his reaction. Usually he is scared of her and runs away. On this day he did turn and run, but then he dashed back. The two of them sparred for awhile, and then Tembo left. Ranchi was no longer afraid of her; in fact, he was quite interested in her. Off and on for the next three months we would put Tembo next to him, and he was right there to see her, but she ignored him. On October 21, we noticed that he was no longer dribbling urine or secreting from his temporal glands. Could his musth be over? To make sure, we put Tembo next to him, and, as before, he turned and ran from her. What happens during musth must stay in musth, because he doesn’t remember a thing!

Ranchipur is slowly coming back into his normal routine, and we were able to get a weight on him. He had lost 490 kilograms from his last weight in June. That is almost 1,000 pounds! He now weighs just a bit over 11,000 pounds (500 kilograms), which is a nice weight for him.

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Zoo Elephants: Queen Mary.

22

Zoo Elephants: Queen Mary

Mary is in charge!

It has been awhile since we have written about the elephants at the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey, so let us update you on the goings-on.

We have been continuing our introductions to try to get as many of the female elephants together as possible. There was a great breakthrough a couple of months ago when we introduced Mary to Sumithi, Devi, and Tembo. We had hopes that one of them would step up to take the reins as a matriarch within this grouping, and we weren’t disappointed! Mary made sure everyone knew right away that she was in charge.

Mary and Sumithi had been spending time with each other and seemed to be co-existing well. We just were not sure how Tembo and Devi would fit in. Mary erased all doubts the first day that we did an introduction; she came right out and exerted her dominance over the other three. Tembo put up a bit of a challenge, but it was short lived, and she quickly submitted to Mary in elephant terms, which means she turned her rear end to Mary and urinated. Mary made sure Tembo had her full attention, so she chased Tembo around the yard several times. Tembo was much too fast for the larger Mary, but Mary continued the chase for awhile.

And then Mary set her sights on Devi. Devi didn’t put up any opposition to Mary, she just ran! Mary would corner her in the pool and would use her trunk to touch, smell, and push Devi to establish her rein as queen. This went on for several weeks during the day while keepers kept close watch and videotaped the interactions. As time went by, there were less and less chasing episodes, but Mary would always take an opportunity to remind everyone who was in charge.

We are now at a point where we keep these four elephants together from about 2 p.m. to 7 a.m. almost every day. We tried introducing our oldest elephant, Cookie, who is 56 years old, to the group with hopes that Mary would keep an eye for her and protect her from the others. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Cookie seemed uncomfortable with the group situation, and we didn’t want to cause any undo stress on her, so we removed her from the group and will try other groupings.

As it stands now, we have different groupings that are working out pretty well. During the day you will find Ranchipur and Cha Cha together in Yard 4; this is the yard closest to the corral area. Cookie and Mary are together in Yard 3, and Tembo, Devi, and Sumithi are in Yard 1. In the afternoon we move the elephants around for various reasons: in Yard 1 you will find the foursome of Mary, Tembo, Devi, and Sumithi. In Yards 2 and 3 we have Cha Cha and Cookie. That leaves Ranchipur in Yard 4 for the night. Ranchipur is by himself because he is on a diet. As of this writing, he weights in at 12,100 pounds (5,488 kilograms). We would like him somewhere around 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms). In order to achieve this goal, he has to be separate at night or else he eats everyone’s food. Since doing this, he has lost about 600 pounds (272 kilograms).

Now Cha Cha and Cookie need to maintain or gain weight, so they are together and doing well. Both seem to eat pretty well at night while sharing exhibit space; this allows Cookie to get all the food she needs, because Mary is now in with the others, and she had a tendency to eat all of Cookie’s food.

Are you following all of this? Yes, it can seem like a soap opera, so stay tuned for further updates!

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Tina and Jewel Update.

83

Tina and Jewel Update

Tina and Jewel when they first came to us in August 2009

I thought I would share some thoughts with you all concerning our wonderful pair of elephants, Tina and Jewel. I have been lucky enough to be a part of their training and care from the time that they arrived at the San Diego Zoo in August 2009. They have done so well since arriving here. Both are thriving, are in great health, and seem to really enjoy their days roaming Elephant Odyssey. I am happy to say that Jewel has completely recovered from all her dental surgeries and can be seen daily doing what she does best—EATING!  She has gained a little over 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) since she arrived. Yes, 1,000 pounds! She looks so much better than when I first saw her. Tina is also thriving; her weight gain has leveled off, and she, too, is in great shape.

Tina and Jewel today

Both of them have responded well to their new training method, protected contact (a positive reinforcement training system), are quite good at their daily routines, and the vets are able to work around them with no problems. They transfer easily throughout the Elephant Odyssey exhibit complex, and both work very well with all the keepers. We have done some introductions with other elephants here, but neither of them have really had much time to interact fully with the others. Whenever they are apart for short periods of time, they come together and vocalize like a pod of dolphins: lots of squeals, squeaks, and squawks. Try saying that three times quickly!

We are very proud of the progress these two have made since joining our group of elephants. I can say without a doubt that they are in far better shape now than when they arrived over a year ago. It has been a real pleasure helping them enter this new phase in their lives.

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Elephant Introductions Continue.

Correction: This blog was attributed in error to Rod Owlett, an animal care manager at the Zoo. Our apologies to Ron Ringer! Rod thanks everyone for your interest in the elephants here at the San Diego Zoo and your thoughtful and caring responses to our blogs.

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Elephant Introductions Continue

Tina and Jewel

Today we took a step closer to acclimating elephants Tina and Jewel into the Elephant Odyssey family at the San Diego Zoo: Jewel was introduced into Yard 3 of Elephant Odyssey with Sumithi and Cha Cha (see post Elephants Cha Cha and Tembo).

The Zoo’s elephant care staff discussed over time what we felt would be the easiest and best way to introduce all of our elephants (we currently have nine). We first started off introducing Sumithi and Devi (original Zoo residents) with Cha Cha and Cookie (elephants that formerly lived at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park). Then we progressed to adding Tembo (Zoo) into the mix. There were some exciting times with lots of interactions and some pushing and shoving, but we learned a lot. For the last several weeks we have continued the introductions with Sumithi, Devi, and Cha Cha actually spending the nights together and doing very well. During the days we include Tembo; as time has gone by, this new grouping has gotten better. Cha Cha is very concerned about Tembo, but luckily she feels safe when she is with Sumithi. There have been some altercations, but nothing that would cause us to alter our plans.

All of those meet and greets have brought us to the next phase, which is to introduce Tina and Jewel (elephants brought to us by the U.S.D.A.) to the group (see Elephants Tina and Jewel: Out and About). It was decided that Jewel would be the next to have a play date. Because of her demeanor and how we have seen her interact with the others through the fences, it was decided she should meet Sumithi and Cha Cha first. I am happy to say that it went very well!

Sumithi and Cha Cha went into the yard first, and then Jewel was given access to the same yard. Right away, Jewel approached Sumithi, walked right next to her, and joined her in eating out of the hay mangers in the “utilitrees” (artificial structures where keepers place food). Cha Cha was a bit more cautious, but did finally come over to say hello. The three elephants spent most of the morning eating and moving around the yard, and several of those travels put all three in the same area. We saw no touching, but they were all very calm, which is exactly what we wanted. We will continue these introductions for another day or two, and then we will let Tina into the mix, followed soon by Devi and, hopefully, Tembo.

Elephant introductions are not an exact science; in fact, there have been very few zoos that have had the opportunity to do what we are attempting. By observing the elephants’ interactions with each other, we have been able to put a plan into place with the goal of getting all of the elephants at the Zoo together at some point. But when it comes to dealing with highly intelligent animals like elephants, we sometimes have to make changes on a daily basis. So stay tuned and visit often for the latest updates!
Here’s a video of the girls together.
Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read Ron’s previous post, Introducing Elephants.

56

Introducing Elephants

Ranchipur and Cha Cha

Ranchipur and Cha Cha

It goes without saying that life at Elephant Odyssey is evolving at a rapid pace! With the addition of Tina and Jewel to our family (see post, New Elephants: Jewel and Tina), our staff is working ‘round the clock to make sure everyone gets the care they need. In the meantime, I know a lot of you are wondering about how the introductions between the four elephants that moved to the San Diego Zoo from the Wild Animal Park and the three that were already here at the Zoo are progressing (see Settling In at Elephant Odyssey), and I can tell you that they are, indeed, moving right along.

As of now, we have successfully introduced Sumithi, Devi, Cha Cha, and Cookie together, and they can be seen most days in yard one until about 10:30 a.m. or longer. Elephant intros can be tedious and do take awhile to accomplish. Cookie and Devi provide most of the activity. Devi is challenging Cookie for dominance, and Cookie, being the wise old girl that she is, isn’t taking the challenge lying down. There are lots of interactions between the two: some rough ones, some fast ones, with Cookie chasing Devi the length of the yard; and some quiet ones where they stand side by side.

Sumithi and Cha Cha have decided to be neutral and are getting along pretty well. Cha Cha really wants to be friends, but the verdict is still out with Sumithi, although she doesn’t mind that Cha Cha is standing near. Devi and Cha Cha are really fun to watch. So many little nuances: Devi standing quietly next to Cha Cha eating, dusting, touching, then Devi swats Cha Cha just for good measure. Cha Cha doesn’t mind, for it is all part of elephant behavior. Each day gets better and more fun to watch them all interact.

We have had Tembo in with the group, and it was pretty chaotic. Tembo was afraid of the others and charged and pushed them around, but did not carry it too far. We had Tembo and Cookie together by themselves today and it went okay. Tembo definitely was the aggressor, but Cookie did not give in, and after about 45 minutes, they were standing side by side.

This is just a brief overview of how the intros have been going. We try them almost every day with some combination of the girls. It will take quite awhile for everyone to get accustomed to each other, but we have all the time in the world and a top-notch facility to allow these wonderful elephants time to work things out on their timetable. For those who have visited and seen elephants separated into other exhibits, it is because Ranchipur is in musth and can be very aggressive toward the other elephants. Cha Cha is his favorite, and she keeps him company. Our goal is to have everyone together and have access to all of the exhibits and let them determine where they want to hang out and with whom. Choices…that’s what it’s all about, and soon, Tina and Jewel will be a part of those choices!

I have been given the task, along with several other keepers in our program, of introducing Tina and Jewel into our facility and our elephant family and they are responding great. Both are great girls and seem to like their new surroundings. Over the next several weeks, we will be working toward improving their health and getting them used to our methods of caring for elephants before we attempt to introduce them to the rest of our group. Stay tuned!

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

24

Settling In at Elephant Odyssey

Hi, everyone.
We are starting to see how fabulous Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo really is. The elephants are doing pretty well (see previous post, Elephants: A New Beginning). Tembo hasn’t lain down at night yet, but Devi and Sumithi are doing so, and I am guessing they are getting some sleep. We know this because when we go out to clean the yard in the mornings, we find elephant body prints in the dirt. We are even able to tell the prints apart: which one was made by Sumithi and which one by Devi. I am sure it won’t be too much longer before a Tembo print appears.

The elephants are having a great time exploring their new exhibit. All of the new sights and sounds keep their attention. But that doesn’t stop them from heading to the Elephant Care Center in the afternoon when they know that it is supper time. They have taken to the new pool, although very slowly. Devi has gone for a swim, while Tembo and Sumithi are happy to wade in and splash water on themselves.

You will be happy to know that we have continued to walk all three of them along a walking path at the back edge of their exhibit. It is hard to see from the public view, but if you notice the back of an elephant strolling back and forth, then chances are they are on a walk.

Ranchipor, Mary, Cookie, and Cha Cha are making strides. It is a huge change for them from life at the Wild Animal Park, and all of the new sights, sounds, and smells can be a bit overwhelming at times. The combined Zoo and Park elephant care staff are working hard to acclimate the elephants to their new home. We have even started to walk Cha Cha a little bit, and she seems to like it. At any time during the day you may see them inside the Care Center getting their pedicures. The elephants get their feet soaked at least once a day, their feet scrubbed and toe nails trimmed. You may see the vets here as they get used to their new charges. This is the beauty of Elephant Odyssey, as we have everything right here for our visitors to see and witness.

I invite you out to get an up-close-and-personal look at Elephant Odyssey. Come see the interactions that take place—they don’t just include the elephant area. We also have our corral area where you can pet Mo, our handsome horse, or the burros, llamas, or even the young camels. We hope to have our cat exhibits up and running by the end of the month, so I recommend coming often to the Zoo so you can see all the changes and happenings.

Did I mention the rattlesnakes, frogs, turtles, and lizards? They are there, too, along with what I think might be one of the coolest exhibits (after the elephants, of course!): the California condors.

Look for me at Elephant Odyssey and say hi!

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

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Elephants: A New Beginning

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

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Elephants: They’re Here

On Saturday, April 25, the elephant staff at the San Diego Zoo received four large gifts for Elephant Odyssey from the elephant staff at the Wild Animal Park. The four Asian elephants, Ranchipur, Cookie, Mary, and Cha Cha, arrived at their new home around 3:30 in the afternoon. By 6 p.m. they were all unloaded and checking out their new home.

Everyone, including the elephants, did an outstanding job of loading, transporting, and unloading. All four elephants made the trip with no problems, except maybe being a bit tired from the day’s activities. With an escort of about 25 California Highway Patrol officers, keepers, vet staff, and support staff, the trip from Escondido was flawless.

When the elephants arrived at the Zoo, we had a crane, forklifts, and staff ready to unload the elephants as quickly as possible. It was decided that Cha Cha would be first. After unloading her crate from the truck and putting it into position, the door was opened. Her keepers from the Wild Animal Park were there to encourage her to come out. It took awhile for her to build up the confidence to leave her crate, which she did several times only to go back in when she got a bit uncertain. What finally did the trick was when her keeper, Brian, dropped his hat into the chute area and she picked it up to hand it back. This behavior was one that the two of them had been doing for awhile. Cha Cha came right out and handed the hat back to Brian, and our first elephant was welcomed to her new exhibit!

Next was Ranchipur. He was unloaded the same way as Cha Cha. He, too, was a bit nervous, but his keepers kept him calm with their reassurances. Then it was decided to let him see his girlfriend, Cha Cha, and he came right out. Guess he figured if it was good enough for her…. So we were two down and two to go!

Cookie was the next elephant to be unloaded. Like the other two, her crate was placed in position, door opened, and she came right out when her keepers called. The fun thing with her was that she had to follow a different path into the Elephant Care Center. There were several doors and transfer areas to pass through, which she did without hesitation and went right to her keepers. Just one more to go!

As we did with the others, Mary’s crate was position and secured, the door opened and basically before we could react, Mary was in the stall with Cookie. There were some chirps from Cookie and spontaneous applause from everyone who was there to witness this monumental event.

I was lucky enough to be chosen, along with my fellow elephant keeper Scott, to be there until midnight to make sure everyone was settling in to their new environment. The elephants’ keepers set all four of them up for the night and said their good byes. It had been a long day for everyone, and it could not have gone better. Five of the keepers from the Wild Animal Park are going to stay and work at Elephant Odyssey, which will make the transition all the more easier. I can say it was a pleasure to see elephants roaming the new facility at night, and all of them were comfortable. I could tell, because all were pigging out on the fresh browse and hay that had been given to them!

Now it is our turn to duplicate the wonderful job that the Park’s elephant keepers have done. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be following the same path and getting the Zoo’s elephants loaded up and moved to Elephant Odyssey. The trip will just not be as far, and we won’t need the Highway Patrol as escorts!

Ron Ringer is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.