MEMPHIS, TENN. – On Tuesday morning of this week, two female elephants stepped into Memphis Zoo’s elephant yard – and their new home – for the first time. The African elephants named “Daisy” and “Bambi,” (pronounced Bom-bee) joined their new herdmates, “Gina,” “Asali,” and “Tyranza,” (also known as “Ty”) after 28 years touring the country with a circus run by the Pages family. When the Pages made the decision to retire, an extensive search began to find a loving home for their two elephants and Memphis Zoo was selected to be that home.
“We’re so happy to welcome Daisy and Bambi to our herd,” said Amanda Schweighart, Assistant Curator/Elephant Manager. “They’ve traveled for much of their lives and have been great ambassadors for their species. It’s a privilege to have them as part of our family.”
Under the watchful eye of the elephant care team, Daisy and Bambi walked off their transport on Tuesday morning and gingerly through the recently-enlarged elephant yard. They took their time examining the swimming pool, logs, root balls, dirt mounds, mud wallows and other exhibit features while Ty, Gina and Asali remained in the barn. Jorge Pages, the previous owner, was on site, remaining for several days to support a seamless and stress-free transition.
Initially, Daisy and Bambi will be separated from the exhibit’s other three residents by a barrier fence, allowing the elephants to get acquainted with each other safely and at their own pace. This “howdy” process is primarily dictated by the elephants themselves. With Daisy and Bambi on one side of the exhibit and Ty, Asali and Gina on the other side, the five can see, smell and touch one another. Based on the level of comfort and positive interactions the elephants exhibit, the decision will be made to give the five full-access to each other.
“This is an exciting time at Memphis Zoo,” shared Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. “We’re watching the introduction of the new girls closely and, so far, we’ve seen some positive interactions. On the first day, Gina, the most social elephant in the herd, came out and greeted Daisy and Bambi. They wrapped trunks and trumpeted, which was a powerful scene and we look forward to more amazing interactions throughout the howdy process.”
Elephants, including African elephants like those at Memphis Zoo, have strong social bonds within groups. They can display welcoming behaviors such as vocalizations and trunk touching like those exhibited by Gina. Playful sparring is also a form of social interaction that is common in elephants to define dominance or hierarchy in a herd.
Like humans, elephants thrive in groups, and expanding the herd provides an invaluable form of social enrichment for all of them. Memphis Zoo has recently extended the elephant yard to include the old rhino exhibit, giving the elephants more room to explore. The rhinos have moved to a new habitat within the Zoo’s African Veldt. Memphis Zoo’s staff provides enrichment activities for the elephants around the clock as well as exercise and mental stimulation in the form of various training sessions throughout the day.
On Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Memphis Zoo will host a Welcome Party for Daisy and Bambi. Festivities will include free face painting for kids in addition to treats and activities for both guests and elephants. The Memphis Zoo’s annual elephant conservation fundraiser, Art for Elephants, will be featured the same day. There will be a silent auction offering a diverse selection of art, including elephant footprints and paintings created by Memphis Zoo’s own elephant herd. All the proceeds from the Art for Elephants fundraiser will be donated to the charity, Elephants for Africa, to help support the preservation of this incredible species.
Both the Elephant Welcome Party and Art for Elephants are free with general admission.
About Memphis Zoo
Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tennessee, is home to more than 4,500 animals representing over 500 different species. Recently named as one of the top zoos in the country by TripAdvisor® and by USA Today, Memphis Zoo has completed over $93 million in renovations and expansion since the early 1990s. The Zoo’s animal inhabitants reside in one-of-a-kind exhibitry, such as Once Upon A Farm, The Commercial Appeal Cat Country, Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek, CHINA - home to giant pandas YaYa and Le Le, and the all-new Zambezi River Hippo Camp. Memphis Zoo was founded in 1906 and resides on 70 acres in the middle of Overton Park. It is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Memphis Zoo, YaYa and Le Le are trademarks of Memphis Zoo.