Local News

N.C. Zoo Expansion Aims To Increase Pachyderm Population

Posted March 12, 2003

— Elephants are one of the biggest attractions at any zoo, but they are in trouble.

Elephants in captivity are in grave danger. With no new African elephants coming into North American zoos, and with an aging elephant population, time is running out.

"First of all, there are very few bulls in the captive population, and of those bulls, only a few are proven breeders. Then you've got a population of cows that is aging out," said Guy Luchty, an elephant keeper at the

North Carolina Zoological Park

.

The North Carolina Zoo is tackling a dwindling pachyderm population. It currently has two elephants, a bull named Caesar and a cow named Little Diamond -- the first African elephant born in North America to survive.

Many elephants born in captivity do not survive. Experts said creating a more natural herd is important and that is what the North Carolina Zoological Park hopes to do.

"Our plan is to double the size of the space we are using right now to exhibit our elephants which will give them plenty of room to increase the herd size," Lichty said.

The goal is to have 10 to 11 elephants in the new exhibit and expand their barn.

When completed, the state's zoo may house the largest collection of African elephants in the country. If all goes well, children will be watching elephants here, and at zoos across the country, for years.

The expansion is expected to cost $6 million. Due to the state's budget problems, the zoo will have to raise the money. So far, $3 million has been raised.

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