Oakland Zoo to move their last female elephant to Tennessee where she'll have more friends

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, May 4, 2023
One of Bay Area's last remaining elephants moving out of state
The Oakland Zoo announced plans to move their only female elephant named Donna to a Tennessee sanctuary where she'll have more friends to play with.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Come June, the Oakland Zoo will have the last remaining elephant in the Bay Area.

This comes after the zoo announced plans to move their only female named Donna to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

Weighing in at a whopping 9,000 pounds, 44-year-old Donna the elephant has been a staple at the Oakland Zoo since 1989.

And for more than three decades, the majority of her time here was spent with her best friend Lisa, another female elephant around the same age.

"They would spend every night sleeping next to each other often time, physical contact, they spend almost all of their time in close proximity," Colleen Kinzley, the VP of Animal Care, Conservation and Research at the Oakland Zoo said.

But Lisa was euthanized back in March over deteriorating health issues.

"In the week or so following Lisa's death, we definitely noticed a big difference, she was unsettled, she was calling, vocalizing for Lisa," Kinzley said. "We just know that not having those female relationships is leaving a very big hole in her social opportunity and her overall quality of life."

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Kinzley says her team worked with the American Zoo Association on a new plan for Donna to be around other female elephants.

On Wednesday, they announced Donna will be moved to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

"There are three female elephants in location in their facility where there would be room for Donna, and they're about Donna's age and they have about the same social experience that Donna has," she said. "It is a little bit like a dating service for friends that we're doing here."

Donna's departure leaves Oakland's other elephant, a male named Osh, as the only elephant in the entire Bay Area.

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The San Francisco Zoo announced the closure of their elephant exhibit back in December of 2004.

But Kinzley says Osh may not be alone for long.

"We're working on the idea of bringing in other young males to Oakland, maybe having a bull group, that's one of the things that we're considering," she said.

As for Donna, because the details of her move are still being methodically worked out, the zoo estimates her departure to happen sometime in mid-June.

"I think we all recognize how important it is for her to get back with some pals," she said.

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