Elephant road trip ends at National Zoo: Trek from Calgary covered 2,400 miles

Three female Asian elephants from Calgary, Canada - Kamala, 39, Swarna, 39, and Maharani, 23 - arrived at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Friday. (Michael Ruane and Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

The National Zoo’s three new Asian elephants arrived in Washington on Friday morning aboard a convoy that carried the animals on a 2,400-mile journey from Calgary, Canada.

The convoy, which left Calgary on Tuesday, was made up of two flatbed trucks carrying the elephants and two RVs carrying zoo keepers and veterinarians.

The elephants, in three big gray containers, arrived at 10:55 a.m. escorted by a zoo police car with flashing lights.

The three female elephants will be added to the zoo’s existing herd of three females and one male.

The zoo said it could take several hours for the metal containers carrying the elephants to be unloaded by crane at the elephant compound and for them to be coaxed into the elephant barn. Parts of the zoo were shut down during the process, and walkways were blocked with security vehicles, bike racks and police tape.


Kamala, Swarna and Maharani lined up in their enclosure at the Calgary Zoo. These three female elephants traveled to their new home at the National Zoo. (Bill Quayle/Calgary Zoo)

Zoo officials were reluctant to say much about the arrival until the elephants had been safely moved into their new enclosure.

The new arrivals will expand the size of the zoo’s elephant herd and provide a laboratory for study of elephant behavior.

The zoo recently completed a $56 million, state-of-the-art facility for the care and exhibition of endangered Asian elephants.

The newcomers — Kamala, 39, Swarna, 39, and Maharani, 23 — join the zoo residents Ambika, 66 , Shanthi, 39, Bozie, 38, and Kandula, 12. Kandula is the lone male.

David Rubenstein, the local philanthropist who has been a major zoo benefactor and recently provided part of the funding for the Washington Monument earthquake repair, paid the $2 million elephant transportation bill.

Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.
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