Posted November 2019
After much anticipation, African elephant, Belle, has arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Transported from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, she arrived at approximately 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Riverbanks and the Milwaukee County Zoo have been working together over the past few months to ensure a safe and successful move. The experienced transporter who assisted in moving the Milwaukee County Zoo’s elephants, Ruth and Brittany, to their new exhibit home, assisted with Belle’s move.
Members of Riverbanks’ animal care team, including the elephant manager, senior keeper of hoof stock, and director of animal health, accompanied Belle to ensure her health and wellbeing during the trip. Riverbanks’ elephant manager has worked with Belle for 18 years, when the Riverbanks’ Elephant Exhibit first opened.
For the past several months, Riverbanks’ elephant manager worked with Belle to prepare her for the move. The step-by-step process took place over several months at the pace and comfort of Belle. After arriving at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Belle was successfully moved into MCZ’s indoor Elephant Care Center where she will spend the next several weeks becoming acclimated to her new home. The building will be closed to visitors until keepers feel she’s comfortable with her surroundings, and Riverbanks’ elephant manager will remain at MCZ for the next few days to help with the transition.
“The Milwaukee County Zoo was the right move for Belle’s needs, to thrive and live out her life in our new spacious outdoor habitat and indoor Elephant Care Center,” said Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser.
“At 38 years old, Belle is a good fit for integrating with Ruth and Brittany, who are the same age. We’ve been taking care of elephants of advancing age for many years, and know these animals benefit greatly when placed with herd mates, as socialization adds to the animals’ overall wellbeing and enriches their lives.”
Belle arrived at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in 2001 from the Columbus Zoo. She stands 7 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 7,920 pounds. Her keepers have come to know her as “the comedian,” and that she prefers to move at her own pace, earning the nickname “Diva.” She enjoys baths, and will even lay down and drift off to sleep mid-bath. She also loves mud baths and immediately sprays herself with dust when she gets wet.
After about 30 days, MCZ elephant care staff will slowly introduce Belle to Ruth and Brittany.
Once they are an integrated herd, Belle, Ruth and Brittany will benefit from the recently opened exhibit, featuring a 20,000-square foot care center with sand and padded floors and an expansive recreation room, a 1.6-acre outdoor habitat with a watering hole, which accommodates three fully-submerged elephants, feeding and enrichment walls, shade structures and a self-activating shower.