San Antonio Zoo adds third Asian elephant

Karen joins Lucky, Nicole to promote socialization in elephant exhibit

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Zoo has welcomed a third elephant to its growing herd.

The new Asian elephant's name is Karen. She is 47 years old and comes to the zoo as a result of a partnership with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

“We are excited to expand our work with the San Antonio Zoo so that more people can see these magnificent elephants up close and in person,” said Dr. Wendy Kiso, director of conservation and research at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation. “It’s this kind of relationship with zoos and other conservation organizations that will help us achieve our mutual goal of more Asian elephants in North America.”

Karen was a longtime companion to Nicole, a 40-year-old Asian elephant who came to the zoo in June. Karen and Nicole were moved to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation with all the other elephants from the Ringling Bros. touring circus productions earlier this year.

Karen’s arrival at the San Antonio zoo is the result of a yearlong effort to find suitable companions for Lucky, the 56-year-old Asian elephant who has called the zoo home since she was a calf.

“We were hopeful at the time that we brought Nicole to the zoo that we could add Karen as well, largely because of their established relationship,” San Antonio Zoo executive director and CEO Tim Morrow said. “We brought Nicole first so we could introduce them to Lucky one at a time. We believed this was the best course of action for Lucky and would ultimately result in the most positive socialization result for all three girls.” 

Morrow said the bonding between Lucky and Nicole has exceeded expectations, paving the way to introduce Lucky to Karen and reunite Karen with her longtime friend.

Karen's trainers described her as a quick learner who gets along well with other elephants. Zoo officials are optimistic that she will do well with Lucky, whose quirky personality made it imperative that the right elephant companions be carefully selected to join her. 

“Lucky and Nicole have enjoyed the exploring the recent expansion and improvements to the elephant habitat, including the expanded pool with beach entry, new grass, sand and added shade,” said Morrow. “We are confident Karen will enjoy her new herd and home as well.”

Zoo officials said the Asian elephant exhibit exceeds 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. 

“Karen’s arrival further cements our commitment to elephant conservation,” said Morrow. “Lucky has inspired us to focus on Asian elephants moving forward and looking toward the future."

About the Author:

Diana Winters is a San Antonio-area native, Emmy award-winning and GLAAD-nominated journalist and baker who loves the Alamo City. She is the executive producer of SA Live, creator of South Texas PRIDE and co-creator of Texas Eats.