BREC: 'Bozie' the elephant goes to Washington

BREC: 'Bozie' the elephant goes to Washington
Photo by NBC33 staff.
All About Animals

POSTED: Friday, May 3, 2013 - 2:34pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 3, 2013 - 6:19pm

BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo is announcing that Bozie, its 37-year-old female Asian elephant, will be moving to the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C. The Zoo's elephant will be placed on breeding loan to the National Zoo to further our international cooperative efforts in elephant research and study.

"Our decision to send Bozie to the National Zoo was both easy and hard. Easy, in that we know she will continue to receive excellent care under the Smithsonian's banner. Hard, in that we hate to see her leave and we know both the Zoo staff and our supporters will miss her," said Phil Frost, Zoo Director. "We have to put Bozie's best interest as our first priority. That means we need to send her where she can live out her life with other Asian elephants in a larger herd capacity than our current exhibit can accommodate."

The Smithsonian's National Zoo just completed a 7-year, $56 million project resulting in the opening of the Elephant Trails exhibit in 2013. Elephant Trails is capable of housing 10-12 elephants. The National Zoo's rich history of caring for and studying Asian elephants spans more than a century.

"We are so honored to have Bozie join our herd at the Smithsonian's National Zoo," said Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. "She'll enjoy our new state-of-the-art Elephant Community Center and our large, complex outdoor elephant habitats. We have an expert team of elephant keepers, veterinarians, scientists and other enthusiastic staff waiting to care for her. We pledge to provide her with the best quality care and attention while she lives with our herd."

The Zoo will be hosting a going away party for Bozie on Saturday, May 18. The community is being invited to send Bozie off in style and wish her well. Bozie will be leaving the Zoo shortly after.

The Baton Rouge Zoo's elephant exhibit built in the late 60's is no longer considered state-of-the-art for a variety of reasons. While our current exhibit exceeds the requirements to house two elephants, it cannot accommodate more than two. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) now requires accredited zoos holding elephants to have a minimum of three elephants. We now know elephants need to be kept in larger, more social groups and as a result, most new elephant exhibits have the capacity to house at least 5 and some as many as 12 elephants.

As occupational safety becomes an even greater concern, the Baton Rouge Zoo also sees the need to manage the elephants where elephants and keepers do not share the same space. This management system known as 'protected contact' is also a requirement of the AZA effective by the year 2014. The goal is to provide a safer working environment for the dedicated staff that cares for the elephants. The Zoo's current exhibit does not lend itself to making the major modifications needed to provide protected contact.

The AZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group and Species Survival Plan (TAG/SSP) is a cooperative population management program overseeing African elephants and Asian elephants in AZA accredited zoos and associated elephant care facilities in North America. The SSP along with the AZA Accreditation Board agreed that due to Judy's failing health, it was in the best interest of both elephants to keep them together in Baton Rouge as long as possible. Once Judy, the older elephant died, it was planned that the Baton Rouge Zoo send Bozie to another AZA accredited zoo where she could live in a more social setting. The Baton Rouge Zoo chose the Smithsonian's National Zoo and the SSP approved that decision.

As standards have changed over the years, the Baton Rouge Zoo recognizes for elephants to be part of future generations in Baton Rouge, a new elephant facility will need to be built. In 2008, the Zoo began discussions to phase out the Asian elephant from its collection and redirect its focus on African elephants. The BREC Foundation and Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo boards have developed a steering committee that is currently exploring opportunities for a capital campaign to develop a new modern elephant facility.

BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo was the 19th zoo in the nation to be accredited and the first in Louisiana. The Baton Rouge Zoo remains in the top 10% of zoos in the nation.

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