Inside look at Elephant Odyssey; Connie and Shaba's new home
9 On Your Side takes a behind-the-scenes look at the habitat that will become Connie and Shaba's new home. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Connie and Shaba have lived together in the Reid Park Zoo for 30 years.
Connie and Shaba will move to San Diego's Elephant Odyssey exhibit.
San Diego's exhibit currently houses several Asian elephants and one African elephant. Trainers expect Connie and Shaba to mingle with their own kind.
Reporter: Jessica Chapin
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGUN9- TV) - From one elephant "odyssey" to another, the Reid Park Zoo elephants Connie and Shaba will move to San Diego together after becoming the controversial topic among local animal activists for months.
Groups have urged the zoo to keep the 30-year pachyderm pair together during the zoo's elephant exhibit renovation. Just last week, city officials agreed they will both move to the Elephant Odyssey exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, where 9 On Your Side traveled to get a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities.
"This elephant care center at the San Diego zoo has been specifically designed to care for older and ailing elephants," said spokesperson Christina Simmons.
The zoo's 3-acre habitat has served as a model for others. It includes soft floors for aging elephants, heating and cooling units outdoors, a 120-thousand-gallon pool, and an on-site medical facility.
Every elephant in the exhibit takes at least an hour-long walk each day with a trainer, they have their feet checked and maintained, and they are weighed once a month. It all happens in a controlled environment specifically for aging elephants, right down to their diet.
When Connie and Shaba arrive, they can expect at least 30 days in quarantine. Even the trainers dedicated to those elephants will be separate from the others to ensure they don't spread any possible illness. Afterward, the elephants will be slowly introduced to their new co-habitants.
The exhibit currently houses several Asian elephants, the oldest of which is 48 years old. It only has one African elephant. Her name is Tembo and she's retired from making movies like Born Free, in Hollywood. Trainers expect Connie and Shaba to gravitate toward their own species because Connie is an Asian elephant and Shaba is African. However, they say they will let the elephants decide who they like to spend time with.
The habitat can be split into several sections depending on the zoo's or the elephants' needs. When 9 on Your Side reporter Jessica Chapin asked if Connie and Shaba were guaranteed to stay in the same section, Simmons said they're not making any promises.
"Connie is an older elephant and as she gets old over the next couple of years she may start to have some medical conditions that mean she may need to be in some of the smaller areas or under specialized care," she said, "that may mean some separations because of medical issues."
The zoo also has an African breeding herd exhibit about 45 minutes away, but Simmons says because Shaba is considered too old to breed, it's likely she's remain at Elephant Odyssey.