ATLANTA — Zoo Atlanta welcomes Msholo, an adult male African elephant from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, to the Zambezi Elephant Center at the all-new African Savanna, opening on August 8, 2019.
Msholo (mi-SHOW-low), who at 30 years old weighs more than 11,000 pounds, arrived in Atlanta on July 24. He will occupy the Zambezi Elephant Center, the indoor component of the Zoo’s new elephant complex, for a period as he acclimates to his new spaces.
Msholo will meet the African elephants at Zoo Atlanta, Kelly and Tara, who moved to the Zambezi Elephant Center on June 16. The ability to meet a new social companion will be an enriching opportunity for Kelly and Tara, whose well-being was the primary goal of the design of their new African Savanna habitat, which more than triples the size of their former habitat. The African Savanna and Zambezi Elephant Center have the capacity to house up to seven elephants.
Features of the elephant environment in the African Savanna include Abana Pond, the largest of the complex’s three water features. Abana Pond has almost 360-degree access and a gentle slope for ease of use by multiple elephants. Additional elements include Chishimba Falls and Kalambo Falls, two waterfalls named for falls in Africa, and a feeder enrichment activity wall. The indoor Zambezi Elephant Center likewise features elements designed with elephant well-being in mind, including sand under the elephants’ feet. The Center was designed to include a large observation area where Zoo visitors will be able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the elephants’ care.
“We are thrilled to welcome Msholo to Zoo Atlanta, where he and Kelly and Tara will be the first to benefit from the expanded environments, features and dynamic elements that make up the most significant transformation in Zoo Atlanta history,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “In our commitment to leadership in professional elephant care and superior dedication to elephant well-being, we are also making a substantial commitment to the protection and long-term sustainability of wild elephant populations in Africa, where their future is very uncertain without conservation action.”
With the single exception of a young male who lived at the Zoo for a brief period in the 1960s, Msholo is the first bull elephant to live at Zoo Atlanta; all others have been female. Kelly and Tara, both 36 years old, arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 1986 and are closely bonded social companions. To prepare to welcome Msholo, members of the Zoo’s Elephant Care Team spent time training at other organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in working with male African elephants, which are considerably larger than females. Members of the team visited San Diego to meet and spend time with Msholo, and two of Msholo’s San Diego care team accompanied him to Atlanta and will remain for several days as he acclimates to his new environment.
Over their more than 30 years in Atlanta, much has changed for Kelly and Tara’s counterparts in the wild. Illegal trafficking for ivory and human-wildlife conflict represent significant threats for African elephants. In 2018, Zoo Atlanta announced a partnership with Conservation South Luangwa, a nonprofit organization based in Zambia, to protect elephants and other species impacted by these threats.
Conservation South Luangwa works to identify and prevent illegal wildlife trade using anti-poaching patrols, aerial surveillance and detection dogs trained to find ivory, animal skins, ammunition and firearms, and certain species killed for bushmeat. Conservation South Luangwa also has a strong focus on mitigating human-wildlife conflict by working directly with local people to safeguard their crops and livelihoods while engaging them as advocates for wildlife conservation. In addition to these efforts, the organization has de-snared hundreds of animals – including lions, African wild dogs and many others – that would otherwise have died as a result of injuries in poachers’ snares.
Tens of thousands of elephants are killed for the illegal ivory trade each year, and the U.S. remains one of the world’s largest importers of ivory. Zoo Atlanta is a partner of The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) 96 Elephants campaign, helping to bring the campaign to Atlanta and Georgia in 2014.
Other Zoo Atlanta elephant conservation efforts have included support for Elephants for Africa. Elephants for Africa, which works to promote coexistence with elephants in rural agricultural communities in Botswana, was one of the first programs to be supported by the Zoo’s Quarters for Conservation initiative. Zoo Atlanta has also supported projects for elephants in Namibia and Nigeria through its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the Zambezi Elephant Center and view video of the milestone of Kelly and Tara’s move on Zoo Atlanta’s YouTube channel.
The all-new African Savanna, which will also feature new and expanded habitats for giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs and meerkats, opens on August 8. Learn more at zooatlanta.org/africansavanna.