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Elephant from Edmonton zoo headed to North Carolina facility

posted 25 Aug 2010, 11:57 by Bhavi   [ updated 26 Aug 2010, 11:21 ]


Canadian Press

One of the biggest attractions - literally - at Edmonton's Valley Zoo has left town.

Samantha, a 19-year-old, 3,200-kilogram African elephant, was put on a specially designed truck Wednesday headed for an elephant facility in Asheboro, N.C. Zoo officials said in a news release that the convoy had successfully crossed the American border and would hopefully arrive in North Carolina by the weekend.

The aim of the move is to have Samantha participate in the U.S. zoo's breeding program, which aims to furnish animals for the North American captive population.

Dean Treichel of the Edmonton zoo has said the program is also important for the overall health of the species.

But an animal rights activist disagrees and says it will hurt the zoo's remaining elephant.

In its news release, the zoo said Samantha will join three other elephants in a herd that could grow to eight by the end of the year. "It's the right decision for Samantha and her species, and is a decision based on conservation," said the news release. "Samantha is a viable reproductive female and should be in a facility where a breeding program exists."

Zoo officials have noted that elephants are extremely social animals and breed better when in a larger group.

Samantha's departure leaves the Edmonton zoo's other elephant, a 31-year-old Asian named Lucy, all alone.

Since Lucy has lived in captivity at the Edmonton facility for 29 years, zoo officials said it would be in her best interests to stay there. "Lucy is highly habituated and is drawn to humans rather than to elephants," said zoo officials. "To help in any transition Lucy might experience, elephant keepers will be spending additional time with Lucy and ensuring that she is given lots of attention, activity and enrichment. Cameras have been installed so that Lucy can be monitored (around the clock)."

Zoo officials said Lucy is treated daily for arthritis and medical experts are trying to figure out why she developed a chronic respiratory condition that causes her breathing difficulty.