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Washington’s National Zoo welcomes Bozie the elephant

The Washington Post

First Published May 23 2013 12:40 pm • Last Updated May 23 2013 12:40 pm

WASHINGTON • The unmarked truck bearing the secret package bound for Washington picked up a security escort when it hit Connecticut Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

It had made the clandestine 1,100 mile journey almost without incident. Few knew what time it had departed. Few knew its time of arrival. Its 7,500-pound cargo remained intact.

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But as the small motorcade, which included a chase car, weaved through the afternoon traffic with lights flashing, a long, mysterious object curled out the back window of the truck.

It was the trunk of an elephant.

Cover blown.

But by then the Smithsonian’s National Zoo was only a mile or so away and the trip was all but over for Washington’s new Asian elephant, Bozie, who arrived safely about 3:30 p.m after a top-secret, carefully-planned journey from Louisiana.

The date and time of her departure and arrival had been closely guarded, zoo officials said, for fear of public intrusions.

"We don’t reveal our transportation plans in order to avoid unnecessary attention," said zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson, adding that animal safety was critical.

"We need to eliminate any possible interference, even if it’s a well-intentioned curious bystander," she said.

There were some gawkers in Tennessee, who had spotted the elephant’s trunk sticking out the truck window Tuesday and cruised along taking pictures from their car. But apparently no word leaked out.

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Bozie’s caravan had come from the Baton Rouge Zoo, where she had lived for 16 years and where her companion elephant, Judy, died in March.

Because it was such a long ride, keepers brought along bales of Bozie’s favorite hay, as well as some apples and bananas.

She was scared to enter the truck at first, so they let her go in backwards. That way, she could stick her trunk out the rear widow to catch the breeze on the interstate.

And because she was moving so far away, they brought along a favorite keeper to stay until she gets settled.

The journey spelled a step into uncertainty for a 37-year-old with no bags to pack, a strange new zoo in which to live, and three big-city elephants to get to know .

Plus, 28 hours was a long time for a 7,500 pound lady to be on her feet.

The trip began about noon Tuesday, eastern time. The truck, operated by professional animal movers, and the chase van stopped for the night in Tennessee. The driver slept in the truck. The van occupants lodged in a motel.

And although elephants can nap standing up, Bozie was not allowed out of the truck to stretch her legs.

Keepers soothed her with peppermints.

"All of this is carefully planned out, carefully orchestrated," said Brandie Smith, zoo senior curator.

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