Two retired female circus elephants have arrived at the Little Rock Zoo to keep Ellen company. Full information is on the jump. Jewell is 60. Zina, the one with the hairy legs, is 50. Both are Asian elephants.
The elephants came from the Ringling Center for Elephant Conservation and arrived here early this morning following a 20-hour tractor-trailer ride from Sarasota, Fla. They seemed comfortable in their new home when we visited — trumpeting and harrumphing occasionally as they ambled about, picked at fodder and rolled in the dirt.
Ellen, in another part of the enclosure, looked warily at her new companions in their first meeting, but showed no sign of distress. She eventually trundled off to be on her own.
The zoo says this is hoped to be the beginning of a continuing relationship with Ringling to use Little Rock as a home for aging retired show animals.
The arrival won't end complaints of animal rights groups that elephants shouldn't be housed in zoos, but it does end the part of the argument that it was cruel keep an elephant, a social animal, alone for an extended period. Protests began after Ellen's long-time companion, Mary, died recently.
Tad Bohannon, a member of the Zoo Board of Governors, was among those on-hand for the arrival this morning and he captured the photo of Ellen (right) checking out her new companions.
Zoo Announces Arrival of Two Asian Elephants
LITTLE ROCK (June 8, 2011) — The Greatest Show On Earth® has given a great gift to the Little Rock Zoo with the donation of two Asian Elephants, Jewell and Zina, who arrived at the Zoo early this morning.
The two elephants, Jewell, 60, and Zina, 50, are retired performers from Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey® circus and have been living at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation® since their retirement and are in good health. The elephants were selected by Ringling Bros.® to be companions to Ellen, an elephant living at the Little Rock Zoo since 1954. Ellen’s companion, Mary, also a former Ringling Bros. elephant, died from complications of cancer last month.
Jewell has been with Ringling Bros. since 1954, and Zina joined Ringling Bros. having come from England in 1972. Both elephants were presented on the Ringling Bros. Blue Unit until Zina’s retirement in 2003 and Jewell’s in 2006.
Zoo director Mike Blakely expressed his sincerest appreciation for the donation saying “The gift of Zina and Jewell to the Little Rock Zoo shows the strong commitment that Ringling Bros. and the Zoo have to elephants and their well-being. Ringling Bros. is a leader in the conservation and care of elephants and understands that elephants are social animals that need companionship. Ringling Bros. also understands the mission of the Zoo to provide engaging educational experiences that influence the public to conserve our natural world.” Blakely also noted that donations from private individuals will help off-set any additional cost associated with the acquisition of the two additional elephants.
Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation founder Kenneth Feld, expressed the significance of the donation saying “The Little Rock Zoo continues to demonstrate the knowledge and expertise that is required by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to partner in its Asian elephant companion program. The staff at Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation trusts that the staff at the Zoo will care for these majestic elephants and provide the much needed conservation education to help save the endangered Asian elephant species.”
Jewell and Zina will not be on full public display until they have fully acclimated to their new surroundings. Staff from Ringling Bros. will be on-hand to help Zoo staff acclimate the elephants and introduce them to their new friend, Ellen.
The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit www.aza.org.
About the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation was established to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience the endangered Asian elephant species. Built in 1995, this 200-acre, state-of-the-art facility was designed for the reproduction, research and retirement of the Asian elephant, enabling Ringling Bros. to share its elephant husbandry knowledge with the veterinary and conservation communities worldwide. For more information about the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation visit www.elephantcenter.com.