KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Zoo Knoxville is planning to host a public farewell weekend for Edie the African elephant as she prepares for her move to the Elephant Sanctuary in Middle Tennessee.
According to Zoo Knoxville, the farewell weekend will be Saturday, November 11 through Sunday, November 12.
During the weekend, zoo guests are invited to share their favorite photos of Edie to commemorate her time in Knoxville. Photos can be shared through the Zoo Knoxville Facebook page and will be included in a commemorative mosaic print that will be made available as a free downloadable keepsake.
Edie will soon be moving to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, which is the same sanctuary that Jana the elephant moved to earlier this year. In 2022, Zoo Knoxville announced that its elephants would be moving to the sanctuary as part of their end-of-life care plan. When the Zoo announced its plans, all three elephants were around 40 years old.
Edie has lived at Zoo Knoxville since 2002.
“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 is 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.”
Edie’s caretakers have been preparing her for the move by working with her to voluntarily enter the travel crate and stand in the crate with positive reinforcement.
Zoo Knoxville Director of Animals, Conservation and Education Phil Colcough explained that the staff at Zoo Knoxville have been flexible about when Edie would move because they wanted to ensure that she was comfortable with the process.
“These elephant moves are all about choice and control. We want these elephants to be comfortable with the routine, comfortable with entering in this crate, comfortable being shut in the crate in order to make the transport as easy as possible for them. Obviously, there’s going to be a whole lot of things along the way they never experienced before, but if we start that comfort level right at the front end, then the better it’s going to go,” Colcough said.
The process of moving Edie requires many moving parts, including the crate that she will be moved in, a crane that will lift the crate from the barn and place it onto a flatbed truck, the veterinary and caretaking staff who will be traveling with Edie, special food for transport, and Zoo Knoxville caretaking staff so stay at the sanctuary for a few days after Edie’s move to help her transition. The trip takes approximately 5 hours.
“Our keeper staff, we’re going to go and stay for a couple of few days to make sure that she’s got some familiar faces to get her through Kind of a time that there, there might be a little, you know, trepidation. It’s a new place. They’re smart animals. So we’ll have the staff there to make her very comfortable. And of course, we will have staff there throughout the rest of their lives,” Colcough said. “We have staff that are coming and going and we’re consulting and having meetings and Zoom calls with that team. Well, after this elephant move takes place. [We are] really happy with the whole process, the cooperation with the Elephant Sanctuary, the relationships we’ve built, built with their staff, their veterinarians, their keepers, and it, it is quite obvious as it has been along the whole way, that this is the right decision we made.”
According to Zoo Knoxville, now that she is comfortable with the routine, she will make the move accompanied by her care staff and veterinarians, and will later be followed by male elephant Tonka.
Colcough added that Tonka is very “keeper motivated” and “loves his people as much as he’s loved his elephants.” Although Tonka will not have any other elephants to interact with until he moves to the sanctuary, Colcough explained that his caretakers will be monitoring him very closely and providing him with more enrichment and space to ensure that he does not experience stress, depression, or sadness after Edie leaves.