Local News

Elephant Finds New Home at N.C. Zoo

Posted September 30, 2007 11:11 a.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2007 6:45 p.m. EDT

— This teenager from Canada weighs more than 3 1/2 tons, but Samantha's adopted family welcomed her to North Carolina with open arms and a cool drink.

The 19-year-old female elephant was the first addition to the North Carolina Zoo's elephant herd, which, along with its exhibit and holding facilities, was undergoing a major expansion.

In June, the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro struck a deal with the Valley Zoo in Edmonton, Alberta, to send Samantha south on a breeding loan.

She arrived at the N.C. Zoo shortly after sunrise Sunday after a four-day truck ride. One of her Edmonton zoo keepers, Jackie Buck, accompanied her and will stay for five days to help Samantha acclimate.

She was unloaded safely and resting comfortably in her stall later in the morning, zoo officials said. After a standard 30-day quarantine, Samantha will be gradually introduced to the zoo’s three elephants, which include two females and one male.

That herd will expand to seven in October, with the addition of one male and two female African elephants from a private facility. They will join Samantha as the first residents in a new $2.5 million, 12,000-square-foot holding barn.

The N.C. Zoo is undertaking an $8.5 million renovation of its elephant and rhinoceros facilities, called the Watani Grasslands Reserve. The elephants' outdoor enclosure will be expanded to 7 acres, and new overlooks and other visitor amenities will also be constructed.

Since the Watani Grasslands Reserve project was launched in November 2006, more than $7 million has been raised through private donations to the N.C. Zoological Society. The state has also pledged $1.5 million.

The grand opening of the Watani Grasslands Reserve is set for April 4, 2008.

The N.C. Zoo's elephant breeding program exceeds the revised recommended standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.