Cleveland Metroparks Zoo welcomed Willy to his new home in the African Elephant Crossing exhibit today.
Willy, the first full-grown male African elephant at the Zoo since 1962, arrived safely from Disney's Animal Kingdom near Orlando, Florida earlier this afternoon. He traveled over the road to Cleveland on a specially equipped truck accompanied by a care team from Disney's Animal Programs.
The transfer to Cleveland was recommended by the African Elephant Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Species Survival Plans are cooperative breeding and management groups for endangered or threatened species including black rhinos, lowland gorillas, polar bears and African elephants.
Willy joins the all female foursome -- Moshi, Martika, Jo and newcomer Shenga – in the exhibit just in time for the May 5 grand opening. This will be the first time the Zoo has had five full grown adult elephants at one time.
Willy is the largest animal to ever live at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. He weighs approximately 13,000 pounds and stands 11 feet tall at the shoulder. He is 31 years old and has one tusk.
"Willy is an exceptional addition to our herd," said Zoo Director Steve Taylor. "He has a lot of confidence due to his size, and we don't expect him to be a wallflower."
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is one of the few accredited zoos in the country that now has the capacity to house male and female elephants together. African Elephant Crossing was designed to accommodate eight to 10 elephants, and eventually the Zoo hopes to house a socially complete herd with males, females and calves.
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.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $11 per person ages 12 and older, $8 for children ages 2-11 and free for Zoo members and children younger than 2. Parking is free. The Zoo is located at 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland.
To learn more, visit clemetzoo.com or call (216) 661-6500.