The two Asian elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo were taken to Tulsa on Thursday, marking the beginning of a breeding plan that could yield an elephant herd in Oklahoma City. Elephants Asha and Chandra were loaded onto a specialized trailer after several hours of maneuvering, said Brian Aucone, interim director of the Oklahoma City Zoo. The sisters then spent an hour and a half on the road before arriving at the Tulsa Zoo. They both handled the trip well, Aucone said. "When we opened up the trailer, they were just standing there, eating, messing around with each other,” he said. Officials expect to have the elephants at the Tulsa Zoo for two years. The plan is for the bull elephant Sneezy to impregnate sisters Asha and Chandra. While the females are away, Oklahoma City Zoo officials will hurry to build a new exhibit for the pair and their offspring in the upcoming Asia exhibit. The long-term goal is for additional elephants to join the mothers and calves.
The voyage to TulsaIn Oklahoma City on Thursday, Chandra was the first to walk into the modified trailer, which is reinforced with steel and climate controlled. Keepers gave the elephants plenty of fruits, vegetables and hay for the ride. "They had a whole pile of stuff to chow on while they were coming up here,” Aucone said. The two were unloaded into their own space in the Tulsa Zoo elephant barn, and they spent a lot of time touching trunks and reassuring each other, Aucone said. Zoo veterinarians examined them after arrival, and they seemed as healthy as ever. The elephants seemed to be adjusting well to their new home, Aucone said. They'll probably remain inside the elephant barn for a few days before they move out to one of the open yards. Oklahoma City Zoo keepers will spend most days in Tulsa for the coming weeks to help Asha and Chandra adjust, Aucone said. "Familiarity is what they need,” he said. "That gives them something they know and feel good about.”
Joining a new herdAs the Oklahoma City pair becomes more comfortable, they will be introduced to the Tulsa elephants, said Dwight Scott, assistant director of the Tulsa Zoo. The Tulsa Zoo is home to three elephants: male Sneezy and females Sooky and Gunda. Scott said he isn't sure when the Oklahoma City females will be introduced to the Tulsa females, but the four will be integrated into one herd. Like many animals, the elephants will have to establish a hierarchy. The Tulsa elephants will likely run the show because they're larger and older, he said. "We don't really have a timeline,” said Scott, who will take over as the Oklahoma City Zoo director July 1. "We really do read the behaviors of the animals and we will follow their pace for the introduction.”
Asha, left, and Chandra reassure each other of their new surroundings Thursday at the Tulsa Zoo. Provided by the TULSA ZOO FRIENDS