Moshi, Martika and Jo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's three African elephants, all returned safely from their stay at the Columbus Zoo and got the first look at their new home - African Elephant Crossing - late yesterday.
The three female elephants were transported via a specially equipped tractor-trailer. Martika and Jo rode together first and Moshi was driven separately later. Two of their keepers, a Zoo veterinarian and an animal care manager accompanied the elephants on both trips.
"Bringing the elephants back to Cleveland now allows ample time for both the elephants and their keepers, who stayed with them in Columbus, to get acclimated to the new exhibit before it opens on May 5," said Zoo Director Steve Taylor.
And it will take some time - African Elephant Crossing is immensely different from the Pachyderm Building they left behind in 2008. The exhibit quadruples the space dedicated to elephants, and features outdoor ranges, stimulating surroundings with ponds for swimming, a waterfall, sand pit, mud pit and boulders for scratching.
Over the winter, the elephants will get to know their new home, and explore the Night Range, a heated outdoor area off public exhibit that will allow the elephants to be outside at night for the first time ever.
"Elephants sleep for much shorter durations than people do and the Night Range will allow them to stretch their legs under the stars, dig around in the thousands of tons of sand or lie down and sleep in the open air," said General Curator Geoff Hall.
The elephants can choose to use the Night Range even in the winter. It features radiant flooring to keep ice and snow from forming and conventional radiators on the ceiling for warmth.
Since the entire African Elephant Crossing won't be open to the public until May, the elephants generally will be off exhibit. However, as the weather improves in early spring, watchful visitors might catch a glimpse of the elephants as they explore the outdoor ranges that are visible to the public.
As the Zoo's largest capital project since the opening of The RainForest in 1992, African Elephant Crossing's $25 million represents a long-term investment in the Zoo's commitment to improving the future for endangered elephants.