Bay Area's last remaining African elephant moving to be reunited with old companion

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Tuesday, July 9, 2024 7:25PM
Bay Area's last remaining elephant moving to be with companions
The Bay Area's last remaining African elephant, Osh, will be moving from the Oakland Zoo to a Tennessee sanctuary in the fall.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- For two decades, Osh the elephant has been calling the Oakland Zoo home.

But in the fall, the only remaining African elephant living at the zoo and in the Bay Area will move to a sanctuary in Tennessee.

The zoo says it's the best decision for his well-being so he can be around other elephants.

"Osh lost his other companions over the past several years," said Colleen Kinzley, Oakland Zoo VP of Animal Care, Conservation & Research. "The females that we had here at the zoo and elephants are very social animals, including the males and even though the male's social behavior is very different from the females, it's very important for them to have social opportunity. And so Osh is leaving to go to the sanctuary in Tennessee, where he'll have the opportunity to socialize with other elephants."

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The 30-year-old elephant weighs 15,000 pounds and is 11'2" . He will be transported in a specially designed, air-conditioned trailer for the 40-hour trip.

Osh enjoys a good pool day, as well as treats thrown in his mouth and playing with toys.

"He's always been a very brave elephant, very interactive, which is part of the reason we know that he's going to do so well at the sanctuary because he's a super confident individual," Kinzley said. "He's always been one of our elephants, anytime we do new enrichment or give them a different space, he's the first one to explore it and really want to figure out what it's all about. So we're really excited to see how he engages with his new habitat in Tennessee."

The zoo doesn't have immediate plans to bring another elephant.

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

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.

"We don't think that that's the right choice to make right now," Kinzley said. "And maybe there'll be a future situation where there's large elephant space. But at this point, you know, this space is not enough for the elephants' social complexity that we think is necessary. And that's why we feel like the elephant sanctuary here is going to give him you know, that the space and the social complexity and the flexibility of their facility so that he'll have choices."

The organization In Defense of Animals said they are grateful the Oakland Zoo is doing the right thing and leading the way for putting animals' needs first.

The organization sent a statement saying in part:

"We are thrilled that Osh will be relocated from Oakland Zoo to a sanctuary, allowing him to live a more natural life. Oakland Zoo has never appeared on our list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants and helped pass the bullhook ban and close ivory ban loopholes. All Bay Area zoo policies now officially recognize that elephants are unsuited to captivity, and have set a powerful precedent for zoos nationwide."

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The elephant will be reunited with Donna, the last female African elephant who lived at the Zoo, and moved to the same location last September.

For the past year, the zoo has looked for a companion for him at the zoo but none were available to join him soon.

The Zoo urges guests and followers to submit their Oakland Zoo Elephant Memories by emailing photos and videos of the elephants throughout the years to web@oaklandzoo.org.

The Zoo is accepting donations for its elephant campaign at www.oaklandzoo.org/elephantfund

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