Posted August 2019
In the next few months, the Milwaukee County Zoo will welcome an African elephant to join its current residents, Ruth and Brittany, in its recently opened Adventure Africa Exhibit. Sometime this fall, female elephant Belle will transfer from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina to the Milwaukee County Zoo.
“We are excited at just the thought of more elephants in the new exhibit, and are anxious for Belle to join Ruth and Brittany,” said Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser. “In adhering to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) new guidelines, it’s necessary for our Zoo to hold a minimum of three female elephants (or the space to hold three females), meeting the animals’ social, psychological and physical needs. With Riverbanks preparing for the re-introduction of Southern white rhinoceros to its population, a new permanent placement for Belle was explored and researched with the assistance of AZA and the African Elephant Species Survival Plan® (SSP).”
“The Milwaukee County Zoo was the right option and the right decision for Belle’s needs, to thrive and live out her life in our new 1.6-acre outdoor habitat and indoor state-of-the-art Elephant Care Center,” continued Wikenhauser.
Belle, who is 38 years old, came to Riverbanks Zoo from the Columbus Zoo in 2001. It’s the Zoo’s hope that Belle will eventually become integrated into a cohesive herd with Ruth and Brittany.
“We know how to take care of elephants that are getting along in age, and I think that’s a real service we can provide to these animals, and a responsibility we don’t take lightly,” said Wikenhauser. “We understand this is a bittersweet departure for visitors and staff at Riverbanks Zoo, but can assure them that Belle will receive excellent care, and continue to lead a full, active and enriched life here.”
Riverbanks and the Milwaukee County Zoo are working together to ensure a safe and successful move. The experienced transporter who assisted in moving Ruth and Brittany will assist with the move of Belle. Members of Riverbanks’ animal care team will also accompany her to ensure her health and well-being during the trip as well as a successful introduction to her new herd.
The Zoo’s new $16.6 million Elephant Exhibit transformed one-fourth of the current layout, and the 20,000-square-foot indoor Elephant Care Center features a recreation room with both sand and padded floors, five individual stalls for training and healthcare and expansive space for enrichment activities.
The 1.6-acre outdoor habitat features a watering hole, able to accommodate three fully-submerged elephants, feeding and enrichment walls, shade structures and self-activating shower. The exhibit’s goal was to make the habitat, both indoor and out, as normal as possible for elephant behavior in a zoo setting.
The Zoo will update visitors on Belle after her arrival to Milwaukee.