Elephants to leave Riverbanks Zoo this fall

Published: Aug. 15, 2019 at 2:09 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - If you go to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, like so many families from our area do each year, you don't leave before stopping to see the African elephants.

Belle and Robin have been at the zoo for many years, and together more than a decade.

Recently, zoo administrators realized their habitat, built in 2001, was starting to show signs of age. They did a lot of research to see if expanding the habitat and bringing in more elephants to increase the size of the herd was the right thing to do.

"We are so glad to have Robin and Belle at Riverbanks Zoo but we are getting ready to jump into a decision that doesn't come lightly," John Davis told us. He's the Director of Animal Care and Welfare.

"Eventually we realized the best thing for Belle and Robin was another herd at another facility," he added.

Elephants do best living in large herds and it made more sense for the Riverbanks elephants to join another group than to start a new herd in Columbia.

We don't know yet when they will move or where they will go, but already zoo staff is focused on working with them to make their transition as simple as possible and make sure they are ready for the next phase of their lives.

"Wherever Belle and Robin go they will go together," Davis said.

The process of moving two large elephants isn't taken lightly either. There is specialized equipment, large containers, that are crafted to meet the needs of the animals through the process. They are temperature controlled and comfortable for their trip on the highway.

"The trainers who work closest with them will make the trip, too, and stay a few weeks to get them acclimated to their new space and new trainers," Davis told us.

Once the ladies move out, and their habitat undergoes a makeover, three Southern White Rhinos will move in.

"They need our attention, too. There are only 22,000 of them left in the wild," said Davis.

The staff hopes the rhinos will breed and before we know it there will be a new baby to visit at the zoo.

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