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The zoo had to determine: Would they fly Bozie here? Would they drive her? Should they have a chase car? Who should go in the chase car? What medicines should they take? How would they get the truck into the National Zoo? What time? How would they get the elephant out of the truck?
"There is nothing that is happening that has not been planned down to the smallest detail," Smith said.
Officials from the National Zoo and the Baton Rouge Zoo all agreed that the move was the best thing for Bozie. It is not healthy for elephants to be alone, and in Washington, Bozie has an opportunity for romance.
The National Zoo has three Asian elephants - including a young male. There’s also a female just about Bozie’s age.
It also has a roomy, state-of-the-art elephant complex with an indoor rec center, a 5,700-square-foot barn, and a quarter-mile walkway through woods. The zoo says it can accommodate up to a dozen elephants, and is working to build its herd.
The National Zoo announced May 3 that Bozie was moving to Washington. There was a farewell party for her Saturday in Baton Rouge, and a quiet leave-taking when she boarded the truck Tuesday.
"She was a little hesitant," said Marie Galloway, the National Zoo’s elephant manager who traveled to Baton Rouge to help with the transition. "She didn’t think it was necessarily a great idea to leave Baton Rouge."
"We sweet talked and babied...and she decided it would be a little more comfortable to go in (the truck) backwards," she said. "So we let her go in butt first. They often are more comfortable backing into a strange situation than they are going head first."
Although the trip went well, there was one minor glitch: Bozie, whose nickname is "Bo," had to be coaxed from the truck with pink and purple marshmallow peeps.
After her arrival, Bozie was to be placed in an area of the barn, separate from the other elephants.
There, she will be medically quarantined for 30 days, but have access to three stalls and an outdoor patio. She will not be on public view during her quarantine.
She can be seen, but not touched, by the other elephants - Ambika, 65, Shanthi, 38, and Kandula, 11, Shanthi’s male offspring. "They can smell her," Smith she said. "They can talk to her."
"Some vocalizations are audible," she said. "Some are almost more tactile. They communicate through something called infrasound. It’s below human hearing....You can kind of hear it but you almost feel it more than you hear it."
"The next exciting part, after quarantine, is when we actually introduce the elephants to each other," she said.
They will be separated only by bars, so they can touch each other. "That will tell us how we want to approach putting them together."
The zoo said that records show that Bozie and Shanthi briefly lived together as young calves in a Sri Lankan elephant orphanage before coming to North America.
Most recently, however, she’s been with her late companion, Judy, at Baton Rouge,
"She could behave a little bit differently...(here) And we kind of expect that," Smith said. "It’s a new place...new people...new animals. So she might be a little more aggressive. If she’s fearful she might express that in terms of aggression."
Weeks ago the zoo sent elephant manager Galloway to Baton Rouge to get to know Bozie. And they brought her long-time Baton Rouge keeper Jenny Fortune on the trip, a move Smith said was like "having your mom walk you to school on the first day."
The zoo plans to have a researcher study Bozie during Fortune’s stay and see how Bozie does after Fortune leaves.Next Page >
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