The Hogle Zoo is suspending the elephant program and moving the mother-daughter duo to another zoo until the fall

The exact departure date for the elephant Christie and her daughter Zuri has not yet been set.

(Hogle Zoo) Christie (right) and her daughter Zuri (left) are pictured in an undated photo. The two elephants will be moved to another out-of-state zoo until the fall, the Hogle Zoo announced Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is pausing its long-standing elephant program and plans to move its two African elephants to another out-of-state zoo by the fall, officials said Tuesday.

The move will give Hogle Zoo’s elephant-mother-daughter duo – Christie, 36, and Zuri, 13 – a better chance to “increase their herd,” said Liz Larsen, the zoo’s vice president of programs.

It’s not yet clear where the pair will end up, but they will be housed at another zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums “where reproductive opportunities can be maximized,” according to a press release. In Utah, three facilities are AZA-accredited: Hogle Zoo, Tracy Aviary, and Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

“Zuri is in her prime reproductive years, she’s really in a critical window for her first calf,” Larsen said.

Hogle Zoo’s elephant care team attempted to artificially inseminate Zuri, but the pregnancy was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, bringing a male elephant to Utah would require a zoo expansion, during which Zuri’s breeding window could potentially close.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) African elephant Zuri celebrates her 8th birthday on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at the Hogle Zoo in Utah. Although her birthday falls on August 10, the August 12 celebration coincided with World Elephant Day 2017. During the celebration, Zuri and her mother, Christie, devoured frozen halves of watermelon, pineapple, apple, and sugar-free Kool-Aid blocks of ice cream, which the two crushed into edible sizes with their feet.

“We spoke to many professionals, advisors, community members and our staff as we carefully considered what was best for all of our animals, including elephants Christie and Zuri,” Hogle Zoo CEO Doug Lund said in a statement . “The ultimate decision for Christie and Zuri’s move is to give both of them the best chance of having a calf in the important social dynamic of a multi-generational herd.”

Elephants may eventually return to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, the release said, as zoo officials review a master plan that assesses what the facility needs to do to maintain the welfare of its animals.

In the meantime, the zoo could move another of its kind to the space currently occupied by the elephants, Larsen said.

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) The elephants Christie and Zuri at Hogle Zoo in 2015.

Though Christie and Zuri’s exact departure date has yet to be confirmed, the zoo announced on Tuesday that they will be away in the fall.

Hogle Zoo has been caring for elephants continuously for more than 100 years. The first elephant to live in Utah under the zoo’s care was “Princess Alice” in 1916.

Elephant care practices have evolved since Princess Alice’s arrival, the press release said, but officials said the zoo has continuously adapted to ensure its elephants have the “choice and opportunities to be physically and emotionally engaged.” ‘ to be a herd and experience the social benefits of life.

In 2005, the zoo tripled the size of its elephant enclosure with the premiere of its Elephant Encounter exhibit. The expansion included a swimming channel that allowed the animals to be fully immersed in water. Christie and Zuri and two white rhinos are currently housed in the exhibit.

“The Hogle Zoo community should be proud of the courageous leadership the zoo is showing in making this difficult decision,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in a statement.

(Utah Historical Society) Princess Alice at Hogle Zoo in Utah in this undated photo. The zoo keeper can be seen smoking and several of the children watching are in the elephant enclosure.

Justin Scaccy

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