Packing pachyderm: 42-year-old Connie to leave for San Diego Zoo
Zookeepers are preparing forthe departure of the 7,000lb elephant
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – It’s a big move, literally: More than three tons being transported from Tucson to San Diego.
Reid Park Zoo is getting Connie, the 42-year-old elephant, prepared for a journey to her new home, after decades as a favorite of many Tucson zoogoers.
The decision to split the Asian elephant from Shaba, the African elephant, whom Connie’s been with for three decades, sparked much controversy. However, Tucson City Council approved the zoo’s separation of the two elephants in late November.
Connie will join a herd of her own kind in San Diego, at a facility which specializes in elderly elephants, while Shaba will join a new expanded exhibit at Reid Park with a group of African elephants.
Zookeepers are getting Connie familiar with the crate she’ll be traveling in, by placing it in the exhibit and rewarding her with sweet treats like cantaloupes and watermelons.
“The crate for Connie is really important to have a stress-free journey … She really made it easy on us because she was really curious. She treated the crate like a toy,” said Sue Tygielski, a zoo area supervisor.
They want her to feel comfortable when she is locked up in the crate and loaded onto a truck by a crane for her 10-hour trip to San Diego.
A team of veterinarians will follow behind to feed and check up on her.
“Shaba and Connie have been spending some time apart, and so far that’s going well. That’s just one step in getting used to Connie going to San Diego,” Tygielski said, when asked about how to make the separation between the two elephants easier.
Accreditation standards do not allow a zoo to mix different species, as Connie is Asian and Shaba is African.
Some zoo-goers believe the move will be good for Connie.
“We're sad to see her leave but we're glad she'll be with other elephants of her species so I'm sure she'll be happier,” said Maria Saavedra.
“I think the San Diego zoo would be a great place for her. It's a nice zoo. It's really big and she'll probably fit in well there,” said Patrick Solorzano, who took his family to see the animals.
There is no definitive date for when Connie will leave, though it is expected to happen in weeks.