Zoo officials urge elephant romance

Friday, June 13th 2008, 7:23 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A pair of female Asian elephants have arrived at the Tulsa Zoo, where zoologists hope they will mate with the resident male elephant, Sneezy.

Female elephants Asha, 12, and Chandra, 13, were loaded Thursday onto a specialized trailer and taken to Tulsa from their home at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Both elephants seemed to handle the trip well, zoo officials said.

"When we opened up the trailer, they were just standing there, eating, messing around with each other," said Oklahoma City Zoo interim director Brian Aucone.

Asian elephants, typically found in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are an endangered species. Their population stands at between 25,000 and 32,000 because of the loss of their natural habitat and conflicts with humans.

"There aren't many Asian elephants left," said Dwight Scott, assistant director of the Tulsa Zoo. "We want them to reproduce and help the species."

The two females will remain in Tulsa for about two years.

The new arrivals will be monitored for a few weeks before they are introduced to the other animals in the exhibit and, eventually, Sneezy.

Sneezy "is like the No. 1 bachelor in North America," said Stephen Walker, the zoo's director.

Sneezy has helped produce offspring in the past, and keepers at the zoo are confident that he will do so again.

While the two elephants are in Tulsa, the animals' exhibit in Oklahoma City, which was built in the 1950s, will be remodeled. That work is expected to be finished by 2011.