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Elephant Herd Transition

In April 2015, Nashville Zoo announced plans to eventually grow our African elephant herd. The following blog, written in November 2015, is an update of what has transpired since April and our plans moving forward.

Juno, a 36-year old female African elephant was sent to The National Elephant Center in Fellsmere, Florida in April. This move marked the beginning of our plans to renovate our existing elephant barn to include state-of-the-art equipment and adhere to the latest standards of elephant management as outlined by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The renovations will be extensive and extremely invasive making it necessary to move all elephants to other facilities. Our plan was to have Hadari (33), Rosie (44) and Sukari (31), all female African elephants, join Juno in Florida until all renovations were complete, and then move all four back to Nashville.

Since that time, we have extensively studied the work that will go into the existing elephant barn renovations. Additionally, we have studied our plans to create a larger African exhibit featuring rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lions, cheetahs, gorillas and much more. This expansion includes a larger herd of elephants including bull elephants. Housing all of these animals and providing them with the best possible care will take careful planning and funding. At this point, we continue to examine several options. We recognize that the process of funding, renovating and expanding our elephant facilities may take more time than we predicted earlier in the year. As such, we believe the best decision is to find permanent homes for our elephants.

Hadari is privately owned by a couple who have worked for the Zoo caring for elephants for many years. They wanted Hadari to be close so they could visit her and we respect that decision. We also wanted to keep Rosie’s trip to a new home as short as possible due to her age. This made The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN an attractive option for both. In the end, we found it best to keep Sukari with the other two. Our fourth elephant, Juno, died unexpectedly in August at The National Elephant Center from complications due to an undetected intestinal disease.

We continue to push forward with our growth and ask our guests and supporters to be patient as we negotiate the best path to take. Already, we are working on placing white rhinos into the existing elephant habitat giving our guest a sample of what to expect in the future.

Nashville Zoo is dedicated to providing the best possible care for our animals. Our vision is to eventually have a growing elephant herd to ensure that generations of visitors will see and experience these magnificent creatures for years to come.

If you have any additional questions, please send them to pr@nashvillezoo.org.

Posted by Nashville Zoo at 9:49 AM


9/17/2015 at 02:52 PM by Ruth Jacob

Thank you for arranging for Hadari and Rosie to go to the sanctuary. Please consider sending Sukari there too, so that she can have a good life and be with friends she already knows. Also, I beg of you, do not replace these elephants. No elephant belongs in a zoo.

9/17/2015 at 04:09 PM by MidwestGuest

I commend your decision to send 2 elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary. But, I also wonder why not all of them together? Maybe it's because Sukari is the youngest and can still have more calves. Or if they are all sent in at once, there might be a territorial dispute because they would outnumber the 2 African elephants already living at there. Any chance you could you could elaborate more on the reasons for splitting up these companions and help the public understand? Anyone who loves elephants knows how much they love the family units they've created over the years.

9/17/2015 at 05:21 PM by Ryan

"Retire" from what ? These animals lived their lives exhibited to the public. Don't think for a second it makes any difference to them whether people are watching them or not. They will still do the same at The Elephant Sanctuary, though the "donation" "requested" to see the animals will be substantially higher than the $15 fee in Nashville. The Elephant Sanctuary has already failed to provide proper and ethical treatment to the elephants in their care. Bunny laid under a tarp for over a week until succumbing to death, as opposed to humanely euthanizing her. Poor form on many parts by the Nashville Zoo for catering to TES' animal rights extremist agenda. Their animals deserve better.

9/17/2015 at 06:23 PM by linda britt

why not move all three of these elephants together,they know each other and will be happier.as for the family which own the last elephant,seems like they would want her to be with the other two.Who are they thinking of themselves or the elephant?Elephants know a lot more than we know and never forget.They need to be free to roam which they can do @ Hoenwal,tn.

9/17/2015 at 06:26 PM by linda britt

what is wrong with yall I answered the question 4..please send all three elephants together as they know each other and love each other,to split them up would be a awful mistake....

9/17/2015 at 06:31 PM by linda britt

I think Peta should be involved @ Hoenwal ,tn to see these beautiful elephants are taken care of proper..

9/17/2015 at 08:10 PM by CGG

All 3 Elephants from your herd should go,to a reputable institution, so as to relieve the stress of trnasport and the new environment habitat... the Elies will be in . Daily care should continue to the max as in their daily routine / and training! Change very little but coninue to train in both levels the Old and new training technigue. continued mental and/social and phyical stinulation .! I wish you all well !

9/19/2015 at 11:13 AM by Joy

Thanks for the information

9/21/2015 at 07:03 PM by AK

Thank you for sending Hadari and Rosie to sanctuary. Why not also Sukari?

9/21/2015 at 08:31 PM by JJ

What is happening to the third elephant? Why can't they all go to the sanctuary together?

9/25/2015 at 10:29 AM by Midwest Guest

@Ryan - Your depiction of Bunny's death could not be more wrong. Bunny was permitted to die at the Elephant Sanctuary the way elephants die in nature, which is extremely rare in the U.S. because most elephants cannot live like they do in Africa. She had her vets giving her fluids and pain medication the entire time to alleviate any discomfort, which is a luxury not afforded to those in the wild. Bunny died slowly in one of the large enclosures, surrounded by her herd instead of on a cold barn floor behind bars surrounded by vets. Her death was like dying at home for a human in their bed of old age, surrounded by their family, instead of in a hospital ward. Bunny laid down and did not want to get up again. Would you have forced a nearly 2-ton animal to be dragged by a construction vehicle several miles into a barn just to inject it with some drug? How would that have been more "humane"? Her herd was allowed to do something they are never permitted to do in America - comfort their dying herdmate while she passed, grieve and mourn one of their own in their own time. This behavior in wild elephants has been well-documented *for decades* by scientists in the field. But, zoos & circuses usually don't have the physical space for it. Nor do most zoos think visitors want to see an elephant dying in person. Euthanasia is what zoos have done in the past because it fits HUMAN needs; not elephants. It is appropriate & humane in some cases; but not all - just like with humans. If an elephant can pass away outside (Bunny was known as the Outdoor Girl) in a place they prefer to live, surrounded by other elephants, IMO that's the best give we can give them after taking them far away from their original herd and homelands.

9/28/2015 at 12:12 PM by S.Brown

Do elephants develop bonds with their herd mates? Wouldn't it be better to keep the three "old" ladies together? (Or do they not get along?) And the male elephant, Juno, who died after being sent to Florida, could separation from his "herd" have caused him to become ill? Thank you for caring about these creatures.

9/30/2015 at 02:15 PM by Z3Mom

Ryan, your ignorance is showing. The Elephant Sanctuary does not conduct tours or allow people to see the elephants. They allow the girls to simply be elephants ... without pomp or pandering to the mentality that dominates so many zoos, circuses and other "entertainment" outlets. There is no "admission fee" to the Sanctuary. You can go to the Learning Center, which is not located near the elephants. Want to see Sanctuary elephants? Check out their Web cams on their site. Get your facts straight before you defame a great organization that is doing wonderful things to help care for and love these magnificent creatures.

9/30/2015 at 10:21 PM by Carey

Thank you Nashville zooand Hadari's owner for sending Hadari and Rosie to the wonderful Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, they will join a small group of other African elephants rescued from circuses and zoos. The Sanctuary provides captive elephants a natural habitat (as natural as possible though its not Africa of course) and individualized care so that they may live out the remainder of their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their wellbeing. As a true sanctuary the habitat where the elephants live is not open to the public. But they have a wonderful website with the individual stories of all the elephants there and Hadari's started on 29 September which can be seen here http://www.elephants.com/eleNotes.php Covering 2700 acres it is divided in to 3 separate areas for Asian and for African elephants, they state: "our elephants are not required to perform or entertain for the public, instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants" however you are encouraged to visit the sanctuary and watch videos about the elephants, watch the 13 elecams set up around the sanctuary see more here about the Welcome Centre http://www.elephants.com/WelcomeCenter/WC_index.php . I only wish Sukari could have joined them there, they will miss each other. As and English woman this is an amazing sanctuary. We have banned wild animals from circuses

10/2/2015 at 09:45 AM by David

A positive move sending the Elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary. Thank you.

10/2/2015 at 09:47 AM by David

A positive decision to send the Elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary. Thank you

10/2/2015 at 01:37 PM by joyce wood

I am horrified that our zoo is considering separating the three female elephants! It is cruel. Surely those in charge know that elephants bond and grieve.

10/2/2015 at 02:05 PM by Vickie

Please reconsider sending all 3 elephants to the Sanctuary because their bonds should not be broken.

10/2/2015 at 03:35 PM by Mary

Please consider retiring your elephant program. Lets face it, zoos are not about conservation. True conservation is about maintaining and protecting the wild population. And any research you're doing at this point can be accomplished (and will likely be more accurate) by observing wild herds. Not a single zoo has ever released a captive born elephant into the wild. And you already know the toll captivity takes upon them. You are providing the public with an opportunity to see elephants in artificial circumstances--that is not educational or useful.

10/3/2015 at 08:38 AM by hbjhb

I will comeback here

10/3/2015 at 10:18 AM by Richard & Mira Leggett

We support and admire Nashvile Zoo for its efforts in caring for the animals. We are sad to see the elephants are being relocated, and also that the herd is being split up. Since elephants form close family units, wouldn't this separation be very stressful , especially for the youngest, Sukari? Is there any plan to bring them back, after your renovations are completed and what protocols do you have to follow to keep elephants at Nashville Zoo? Thank you!

10/5/2015 at 07:59 AM by Karina

I would love to know what you mean by Herd Dynamics when you speak of Sukari not being able to go with the other two to the elephant sanctuary. Do they have personality differences that cause them not to get along? My other question is showing my ignorance of the size of the elephant habitat at the zoo. How many acres does the zoo have set aside for the elephants? When elephants need so much space to roam how can acreage at the zoo be enough for 3 and eventually with the bull, 4 elephants have enough space to be mentally and physically healthy. The elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald has provided the elephants with thousands of acres to give them a healthy set up.

10/5/2015 at 08:36 AM by ginger

Sukari is my favorite. I will be VERY upset if she is separated... I know my upset will have no bearing on your decision, but think of this: if it upsets ME that much, think how upset Sukari will be, when she arrives at a strange place without her herd.... if she dies from loneliness or fear or "intestinal problems" - it will be on your heads.

11/9/2015 at 03:18 PM by Andrea Kriechel

Ich danke Ihnen sehr und freue mich unendlich für die Elefanten.

11/9/2015 at 03:56 PM by Joe

Thank you for retiring the elephants to the sanctuary. Please reconsider plans to expand your elephant exhibit. Fyi....Juno did not die from intestinal problems. Juno died from you ripping the elephant away from the others.

11/9/2015 at 04:26 PM by Team Elephant

Unbelievable!! It's soooo cruel to set them free into a sanctuary and then return them to zoo captivity!!! - NOT COOL Nashville Zoo.... you keep deleting my comment!!

11/9/2015 at 04:26 PM by Team Elephant

Unbelievable!! It's soooo cruel to set them free into a sanctuary and then return them to zoo captivity!!! - NOT COOL Nashville Zoo.... you keep deleting my comment!!

11/9/2015 at 04:26 PM by Team Elephant

11/9/2015 at 04:27 PM by Team Elephant

Unbelievable!! It's soooo cruel to set them free into a sanctuary and then return them to zoo captivity!!! - NOT COOL Nashville Zoo.... you keep deleting our comment!! We will keep posting it however!!!

11/9/2015 at 04:28 PM by Team Elephant

Unbelievable!! It's soooo cruel to set them free into a sanctuary and then return them to zoo captivity!!! - NOT COOL Nashville Zoo.... you keep deleting my comment!!

11/9/2015 at 05:01 PM by Team Elephant

Thank you finally clearing this up!! You need to update your website ;) We are happy these 3 are in fact retired forever now. We wish you had no plans to add more elephants though!!! Elephant captivity is wrong! The Nashville Zoo responded an hr ago ..... Nashville Zoo - Nashville Zoo - Rosie, Sukari and Hadari will be living out the rest of their lives at the Sanctuary. This is their "retirement" from Zoo life; they will NOT be returning. We do intend to expand our collection down the line, but we would be getting a different set of elephants entirely.

11/9/2015 at 05:21 PM by Jill Kaplan

Please continue this awesome deed by retiring all of your elephants!!

11/9/2015 at 05:46 PM by Pam Bryan

Congratulations and thank you to the Nashville Zoo for doing the right thing for Rosie, Sukari and Hadari. That is really great news. Bless you. Hopefully, as the world turns and things evolve you will change your mind about adding more elephants in the future. If we are to keep elephants in captivity for the' good of the species' a sanctuary like TES is the only humane thing to do.

11/9/2015 at 08:13 PM by Pamela Polhamus

Thank-you from the bottom of my heart. Sending these elephants to TES is so amazing and wonderful. They will take great care of them and they now will have lots of fun enjoying making new friends and plenty of land to feel at peace. You have shown the people that you love and care about them and want the best for them. God Bless!!

11/10/2015 at 12:11 AM by Cindy A.

So full of joy upon hearing that you have retired your 3 elephants to the sanctuary, but, is it true that as soon as you upgrade the elephant exhibit area, you will bring in new elephants? Where will they come from?

11/10/2015 at 02:28 PM by Larry L

Thank you for retiring these three elephants. They should all three be retired to the same location. Science has proven that elephants do not do well at all in captivity and the trauma they go through in the process of being removed from the wild is barbaric. Stand up for what's right. Leave elephants alone in the wild and don't contribute to the horrific trade in wildlife and the madness of breeding them in captivity. End your elephant program. Please.

11/11/2015 at 09:46 AM by CRITHA FRANSE

Please explain what is happening to Juno by being her bring sent to the National Elrohant Center in Florida in " preparation for the expansion . This sounds ominous .

11/11/2015 at 09:49 AM by CRITHA FRANSE

Please explain what is happening to Juno who is being sent off to the National Elephsnt Center in Florida in " preparation for the expansion " . This sounds ominous

11/13/2015 at 03:09 PM by ab

Please PLEASE DO NOT REPLACE THESE ELEPHANTS!!! They do not belong in zoos as the are intelligent and emotional creatures. Take this chance TO DO THE RIGHT THING!

11/21/2015 at 11:15 AM by Mborg

These large animals if not in the wild belong in a sanctuary. So please keep rhinos there and do not bring elephants. Why not pandas?

12/8/2015 at 01:39 PM by Robin

This completely kills my heart. I just came to the website to see if there was any pics or info on our beloved Rosie and Juno from Jackson, MS, and boy is there. We so loved our elephants here and it breaks my heart that one of them has passed. I'm confused why you would seperate Rosie and Juno since they have been together for so long. I'm not accusing you, I'm sure you had good reasoning. It was a very sad day her in the sip when the elephants left....not sure this isn't worse.

1/10/2016 at 07:10 PM by robert dowling

not to jump on the ryan comment, it is either agenda driven and/or not aware of the facts. tenn sanctuary allows no visitors only at its visitor center in town, also elephants according to whether they ar African, Asian, quarantined for a while and actually almost mix as in open can communicate and now with 12-14 hd cams they can and the public can watch out for them. as far as the Nashville zoo is concerned they should come clean and tell the public, elephants in zoos are expensives to deal with and facilities are very, by the nature of the animal, extensive and can be complex and just the acerage needed can be a major obstacle when its a zoo setting and other animals have to be considered in the mix. thanks for the time.

2/3/2016 at 03:46 PM by Sandy Joslin

Do not destroy our faith in what the Nashville Zoo proposes to do: to care for all their animals and have their health and wellness as a priority. You have made the decision to not bring these particular elephants back. Be concerned that you are placing these beautiful animals together in a place they can continue to thrive and extend their lives with caretakers and health workers who will love them as so many Nashvillians have come to love them. Do not be concerned on how you are filling up an empty space now.

9/5/2016 at 08:41 PM by JY

Rude rude comments people! These people know what their doing with these elephants! You don't need to criticize or judge them when you have no idea what your talking about! They know what is best for these animals! I agree Nashville zoo! Thank you for the work yall do! I hope everything works out for the best! ♡

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