New elephant joins Columbus Zoo herd

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has welcomed a new elephant, named Johnson, from African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada. Johnson, a gentle and laid-back 19-year-old elephant weighing approximately 11,500 pounds, was born in 2001 and is adjusting well to his new surroundings. The zoo’s elephant care team has announced that Johnson is eating well and exploring his spacious habitat, which includes outdoor swimming pools, indoor showers, outdoor mud wallows, sand floors, and trees for back rubbing and scratching.

Johnson will reside in the former outdoor rhino habitat, which is currently being modified to offer additional space for the elephants and is expected to be completed in October 2024. The zoo plans to introduce Johnson to the female elephants in the herd, specifically sisters Rudy and Sundara and matriarch Phoebe, as well as Phoebe’s son, Frankie.

The introduction of Johnson serves a purpose beyond simple socialization, as he could function as a role model for Frankie. The zoo’s moves regarding the elephants are facilitated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan), a program aimed at helping ensure the survival of the species by managing a growing, genetically diverse population in North American zoos.

Johnson’s arrival follows recent departures of elephants Sabu, Hank, and Connie from the Columbus Zoo. While Sabu returned to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden after a temporary stay, Hank and Connie were moved to the Tulsa Zoo as a result of a breeding plan recommendation. The zoo is planning to receive another breeding bull, Raja, from the Saint Louis Zoo next year, with the two bulls being housed separately to provide the females with additional socialization opportunities and ultimately increase the chances of producing offspring.

Zookeepers expect that these changes will foster a healthy and genetically diverse herd of elephants at the Columbus Zoo, contributing to the continued survival of the species.

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