Unpacking the Trunks

Six elephants unpacked their trunks on March 11 in their new home at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska partnered with other zoos in Dallas, Texas and Wichita, Kansas to receive permits allowing 18 elephants from Swaziland, Africa to by transferred across the ocean on Boeing 747 freighters to the USA.

The Elephants’ new home is 29,000-square-feet in Omaha’s “African Grasslands exhibit”, the largest herd room in North America. The area for the elephants in the zoo’s far southwest corner is a 15 million dollar addition to the 73 million African Area.

While this is very exciting for the people of Omaha and the surrounding area, others are opposed with taking animals from their homeland. The overly protective members of PETA have been doing whatever they can to stall the process of the arriving animals. Rachel Mathews, of the PETA Foundation counsel, says that PETA is afraid that receiving Elephants will send a “really dangerous signal to other African countries that there is money to be made by sending elephants to American zoos”. Due to the revenue the Elephants are sure to bring in, PETA sees this transfer as using animals for money and fears that people will start to hunt down these creatures for money.

While one can see value in the argument made by PETA, Dennis Pate, CEO and executive director of the zoo, says that he is not buying the elephants but instead ” transferring money to Swaziland that’s placed in a trust to support rhino conservation.” The zoo director makes it a point to explain that he is trying to do anything he can to help. And while it may appear evil to take elephants away from their homeland, Pate explains that this is in best interest to the animals. Due to the over population of elephants in Swaziland Parks, the people at Big Game Parks, Owner of the park homing the elephants in Swaziland, were planning on killing the elephants as a population control measure because the growing elephant herd was degrading the park’s food supply and acting as a danger the other animals in the park.

Even though the people at Big Game Park were looking to get rid of the elephants, the people of Omaha could not be happier with their arrival. The Omaha Zoo once held elephants but the exhibit was small and some elephants became sick. At the time, the zoo was forced to get rid of the elephants. Now with a new state of the art grassland for the elephants to roam, the zoo hopes the elephants can live a happy and healthy life here in the Midwest.

The zoo is the largest tourist attraction in Nebraska with 1.1 million visitors annually. The zoo hopes that the elephants will draw in more visitors from all around hopefully bringing in more business to the town as well as helping the elephants. The large animals will be a rare and exciting sight for children and adults alike. The addition of the 6-ton animals in Omaha Nebraska looks to be a “win win.” The elephants are now adjusting to their change of scenery and are scheduled to go on display come May. The Elephants have finally arrived in Nebraska and hopefully they are here to stay.

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