SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Zoo was gifted a retired elephant Monday from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Nicole, a 40-year-old Asian elephant, will join the zoo's 56-year-old Asian elephant, Lucky.
“Since early 2015, the San Antonio Zoo has been searching for a companion animal for our beloved elephant, Lucky, and today we celebrate the result of that hard work made possible by a new partnership with our friends at Feld Entertainment,” Tim Morrow, the zoo’s executive director and CEO, said.
Nicole performed with the circus throughout the last 20 years up until last month, when the parent company of the circus, Feld Entertainment Inc., transitioned all the elephants from its touring circus productions to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation.
“We are very proud to bring Nicole to the San Antonio Zoo, where we know she will be well cared for,” Dr. Dennis Schmitt, Ringling Bros. chair of veterinary care and conservation, said. “It is partnerships just like the one with the San Antonio Zoo we wanted to pursue so families can continue to see these magnificent animals."
The zoo recently completed a project that extended the existing rain garden along the front of the elephant habitat, exceeding the space and design standards for multiple elephants as established by both of its accrediting organizations, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Zoological Association of America.
“This new addition underscores our firm commitment to Lucky and the future of our elephant conservation programs, both locally and in their native habitats," Morrow said. “Zoos are changing the world through the impact we have on conservation and education, and we must keep our eyes focused on saving species like the Asian elephants from extinction so that we can learn from them for generations to come."
Visitors to the San Antonio Zoo will soon be able to see Nicole in her new environment.
“Our animal care professionals are taking great care in the process of introducing Lucky and Nicole to each other, so either elephant may be exploring the outdoor habitat while the other has access to the barn,” Alan Kardon, the zoo’s vice president of animal care, said. “With this in mind, the elephant exhibit may be closed at times to the public during their introductions.”
Lucky's previous companion, Boo, died at the age of 59 in March 2013.