KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first of Zoo Knoxville’s elephant herd is preparing to move to The Elephant Sanctuary, a release says.

According to Zoo Knoxville, Jana, a 42-year-old female African elephant, is anticipated to be moving to the sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee in the next few weeks. She is the first of the herd to move, following the 2022 announcement that all three senior elephants would be moving to a sanctuary as part of their end-of-life care plan.

Zoo Knoxville says moving to the sanctuary will ensure their individual and unique social needs will be met for the remainder of their lives. At the sanctuary, they will be able to join a larger group of elephants, ensuring that Jana, Edie, and Tonka will have continuous companionship.

“Our elephants have thrived here at Zoo Knoxville, but it is time for the next chapter of their lives,” said Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville president and CEO.  “Transitioning to the care of our AZA colleagues at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where they are assured the companionship each of them are accustomed to for the remainder of their lives, is part of the commitment we made to care for them from birth to death.  It is a decision we did not take lightly, but we know ultimately it is the right one.” 

To celebrate her big move, Zoo Knoxville is planning a public farewell weekend for Jana for April 14-16. At the Farewell weekend, guests will be able to sign an elephant-sized postcard in the indoor elephant barn viewing area from Friday to Sunday. There will also be a hands-on biofact table from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day and an origami artist on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The elephants will be enjoying special enrichment activities and treats in their habitat for the occasion.

Jana will soon be joining the heard of 10 geriatric age elephants at The Elephant Sanctuary, which is about an hour and a half south of Nashville, according to a spokesperson for the sanctuary. The sanctuary has more than 3000 acres for the herd.

Zoo Knoxville says Jana will be followed by Edie and Tonka later this year.

Both Zoo Knoxville and the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee are accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which assures that the elephants will continue to receive the highest standard of care, the release says. According to Zoo Knoxville, other considerations that went into selecting where the elephants would retire to included the continuity of veterinary care in close consultation with U.T. College of Veterinary Medicine, the range of companionship the sanctuary can provide, and the short amount of travel required for the move.

Jana has been preparing for the five-hour trip by training with Zoo Knoxville’s expert elephant caretakers to voluntarily enter an elephant sized crate that will be lifted by a crane onto a flat bed truck, Phil Colclough, Director of Animals for Zoo Knoxville, explained. During her trip, Colclough says there will be a camera in the crate that can be monitored on cell phones in the truck cab, allowing those moving her to watch for any distress or problems during the trip.

Zoo Knoxville said while her exact departure date is unknown, Jana’s move will take place within the next few weeks. Zoo Knoxville and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee will provide updates on her move, the release says.