State News

3 elephants arrive at zoo, make collection largest ever

Posted October 29, 2007 2:22 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2008 8:48 a.m. EDT

— Three new arrivals swelled the North Carolina Zoo's elephant herd, making it one of the largest collections of African elephants in North America.

Artie, a 24-year-old male, arrived Friday. Tonga, a 29-year-old female, and her 5-year-old female calf, Batir, were delivered Sunday. All three traveled to Asheboro via truck from Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary near Greenbrier, Ark.

The three became the latest residents in a $2.5 million, 12,000-square-foot holding barn, part of the expansion of the zoo's Watani Grasslands Reserve. They will be held there for a standard 30-day quarantine.

The new arrivals will then gradually be introduced to Samantha, a 19-year-old female who arrived in September from Canada, and the zoo's long-time residents C'sar, a 33-year-old male, and females Diamond, 29, and Rafiki, 25.

The introduction could last several months.

The N.C. Zoo launched an $8.5 million renovation of its elephant and rhinoceros facilities in November 2006. The elephants' outdoor enclosure will be expanded to 7 acres, and new overlooks and other visitor amenities are also being constructed.

The project has been funded through $7 million in private donations to the N.C. Zoological Society and $1.5 million from the state.

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