San Diego Zoo Safari Park Loans African Elephant to Fresno Chaffee Zoo

A team of animal care staff from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park went on the road this week with a 7,500-pound (3,432-kilogram) traveling companion named Vus’Musi. The 11-year-old male elephant—who is affectionately called “Moose” or “Moosey” by his keepers—was moved to a new home at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo on Thursday, Aug. 20 as part of a breeding loan recommended by the Species Survival Plan program, managed within zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Vus’Musi’s keepers worked with him for weeks to prepare him for the move, so when the day came for him to leave the Safari Park, he walked into his moving crate easily. To ensure that Vus’Musi was safe and confortable, he was monitored throughout the entire drive by two of his Safari Park keepers and a veterinarian. During the trip, there were frequent stops to reward him with treats, including watermelon and cuttings from leafy tree branches.

Upon his arrival, Vus’Musi was placed in a holding area that allows him to see his two new herd members, females Amy and Betts. He won’t have physical access until he has completed his quarantine at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Two of Vus’Musi’s keepers from the Safari Park, Mindy Albright and Curtis Lehman, will stay with him in Fresno to assist in his transition to new keepers and surroundings.

“He’s all grown up,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Being a male, we knew that someday he’d probably move to another place and start a family of his own—and it turned out to be the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.”

This fall, all three elephants will be living in the multi-species African Adventure habitat. Opening October 15, the area features savannas, pools, waterfalls and mud wallows. The other species included in the new African Adventure habitat include lions, cheetahs, rhinos and meerkats.

Vus’Musi was born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2004. He is the first calf born into a herd of elephants that was relocated from Swaziland to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2003, to prevent them from being culled in their homeland. His name, Vus’Musi, means “to build a family”—and now that he is in Fresno, animal care staff hope that he will become a father.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.