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LR Zoo's Ellen getting to know new friends

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Though it might seem rude to us, Ellen the elephant has been getting to know her new companions at the Little Rock Zoo by putting her trunk in their ears and mouth and smelling their feet.

Zina (pronounced to rhyme with Dinah) and Jewell, former residents of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, arrived at the Little Rock Zoo last Tuesday. They will provide companionship to Ellen after the death of the zoo's other elephant, Mary, a few weeks ago. But not right away. Handlers won't let allow Ellen and the new residents (who are old friends) into the same pen until they're sure they'll get along, judging by sounds the animals make and the way they're touching each other.

Jewell, 60, and Ellen, 62, seem to be getting along. Both Zina, 50, and Ellen are dominant personalities — "hard-headed," handler Britt Thompson said — so it may take them longer to sort things out. All are Asian elephants.

Thompson sat up all night in the barn with Zina and Jewell their first night at the Zoo to "make sure they had what they needed." When the elephants become accustomed to one another, they'll take their early morning walks around the Zoo grounds together, where Ellen will perhaps introduce them to two animals she particularly likes to visit, B.J. the giraffe and Sue the white rhinoceros.

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