A chance for Utah to say goodbye to elephants at the Hogle Zoo

Sep 22, 2023, 3:45 PM | Updated: 3:48 pm

Zuri and Christie...

Zuri is pictured on the left and Christie is on the right side. (Utah’s Hogle Zoo)

(Utah’s Hogle Zoo)

SALT LAKE CITY — The elephants at Utah’s Hogle Zoo will soon be leaving the state and will be relocated to a different zoo that has a larger herd. Officials say the move will better allow the continuation of mother, Christie, and daughter, Zuri’s multigenerational herd.

In May, Hogle Zoo officials said the two elephants would be moved to another zoo that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (as Hogle Zoo is.)

And because the elephants are an integral part of the zoo, Hogle Zoo officials didn’t want to let the moment pass without offering the community a chance to see the mother and daughter duo one more time to say goodbye.

“We’re all feeling that sadness, but also hopeful, for Christie and Zuri,” said Heather Barnum, director of advancement at Hogle Zoo. It will be the first time in a hundred years that elephants won’t be in Utah.

When, and why are the Utah elephants leaving?

Barnum said the transfer will take place “later this fall.”

On Saturday, the zoo will take five dollars off the price of admission. Barnum said they’d offer some special demonstrations and give people the chance to share their well wishes for the elephants.

Artificial insemination attempts with the younger elephant, Zuri, have not yielded a successful pregnancy. And creating more space for a larger herd at the Hogle Zoo would take so much time that Zuri would be past her prime reproductive years.

“We know that elephants are social creatures. We also want them in their prime reproductive years to have babies,” Barnum told KSL NewsRadio. “We’re really hopeful that that will happen in their new home.”

What’s next for the zoo?

Zoo officials say they’re looking at the elephants’ departure as an opportunity.

“We are relatively landlocked,” Barnum said.

We can really look at the space now. We’re in a master planning process. Adding this acreage could actually help some of our other larger animals.

Like the zoo’s rhinos, lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my!

A century of care

Much has changed at the Hogle Zoo since its first elephant, Princess Alice, arrived in 1916. Zoo officials said evolving care practices and research has helped the zoo’s professional animal care team adapt to offer the animals more choices and opportunities to be physically and emotionally engaged. The Hogle Zoo expanded and improved its elephant space in 2005 after building Elephant Encounter.

Zoo officials said they have worked to provide its elephants with offspring and the social dynamic benefit of living in a multigenerational herd. However, the 42-acre zoo would need to invest in additional space to bring a male elephant to Utah — a process that would take years. It could also potentially lead to the loss of Zuri’s prime reproductive window.

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A chance for Utah to say goodbye to elephants at the Hogle Zoo