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Louie the elephant arrives at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Jun. 23, 2017 at 10:03 AM CDT
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Around 8:15 Friday morning, Louie, the African elephant arrived in Omaha.

Louie, a bull African elephant from the Toledo Zoo, is officially on his way to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Crews will drive him through the night Thursday and plan to welcome him to Omaha Friday morning.

Louie's journey to Omaha is based on a recommendation of the African Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Louie will have the potential to breed with the Zoo’s five female resident elephants to help sustain the genetic diversity of this endangered species’ population in zoos. The zoo hopes to move Louie within a month following his acclimation to the transport enclosure.

In his new home at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Louie will join a herd of six other African elephants (five female and one juvenile male) in our multi-species African Grasslands exhibit, which includes zebras, impalas and a 150,000 gallon pool. The Zoo also boasts the largest indoor elephant herd space in North America at 29,000 square feet. Combined, the indoor and outdoor elephant areas total more than five acres.

Shayla Bell Moriarty, Toledo Zoo’s director of communication said, “Since his birth, Louie has been a visitor favorite. Our guests have enjoyed learning all about the largest land mammal and threats facing the incredible species while watching him grow. This SSP recommended move is the logical next step for his growth and development and we hope that visitors will join us in being excited to see what the future holds for Louie.” Louie’s mother, Renee, half-brother, Lucas, and companion, Twiggy, will remain on exhibit at the Toledo Zoo.

Jason Herrick, Director of Reproductive Sciences at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium said, “Over the past year we have been monitoring hormone levels of our elephants and have confirmed two of our female elephants are cycling. Bringing Louie to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo soon will give him time to meet his new keepers and acclimate to his new home. By August, which is the next time the females are due to cycle, he will hopefully be ready to be introduced to the females for breeding.

Getting these females pregnant will serve two important purposes. First, our females came from Swaziland, so their genes are very valuable for the zoo population. Offspring will help ensure those genes are carried into future generations of zoo elephants. Second, the longer elephants go without being pregnant, the harder it is for them to get pregnant. Being pregnant while they are young will help extend their reproductive lifespan.”

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable due to poaching for ivory and loss of habitat from human expansion. It is estimated there are 415,000 African elephants roaming in 37 different African nations.

Louie was born on April 30, 2003 at the Toledo Zoo to mother, Renee. At birth he weighed in at 275 pounds. This year Louie turned 14 and currently weighs approximately 6,000 pounds and stands nearly nine feet tall.

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