National Zoo to get new Asian elephant

The National Zoo announced Friday that it is acquiring an Asian elephant from the zoo in Baton Rouge.

The elephant is a 37-year-old female named Bozie. Zoo officials said that her companion, Judy, died recently. Elephants are herd animals and cannot be left alone.

The zoo now has three Asian elephants. But it recently opened a state-of-the-art elephant complex that zoo officials said can accommodate many more elephants. There is an indoor community center with a four-foot-deep layer of sand and a cushioned floor in another enclosure. There are also a 5,700-square-foot barn, two new yards, a pool and a quarter-mile walkway through woods.

Altogether, the zoo’s new elephant trails complex can house up to a dozen elephants.

Bozie was born in Sri Lanka in 1975, and the Baton Rouge Zoo has had her since the late 1990s, it said.


The National Zoo is acquiring 37-year-old Bozie from the zoo in Baton Rouge after her companion died. (CC Lockwood/National Zoo)

Phil Frost, director of the Baton Rouge Zoo, said that Judy, 46, suffered from arthritis and died April 18.

He said his zoo has a small elephant facility, built in the 1960s, that can house only two elephants. “But, quite honestly, if we are going to keep elephants here, we need to keep more than two,” Frost said.

He said the two elephants had been together for more than 15 years.

“Our plan all along had been that once Judy did pass on, as quickly as we could we would be moving Bozie to another zoo,” he said. “We felt it was best for her to be able to be put in a situation where she could be with multiple Asian elephants in a small herd.”

Frost declined to say when she will be moved but noted that there will be a farewell party for her May 18. “She’ll be leaving here a short time after that,” he said.

The National Zoo said she will be in Washington by the summer.

“She’s a great elephant. We are going to miss her tremendously,” Frost said. “She’s got a wonderful personality,” he said. “Plus, she can paint. We bring her canvas and a brush, and she’ll paint.”

He said the zoo recently auctioned off one of Bozie’s paintings to raise money for tsunami relief in Sri Lanka. “It was kind of a way of helping the folks back home,” Frost said.

He said the National Zoo is a “great facility, one that the folks there can be extremely proud of.”

“We hate to see her go, but we know she’s going to have a great life there at the National Zoo,” Frost said.

National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said “it is big news that we are getting an elephant.”

The zoo has spent years and millions of dollars creating a habitat for a large group of elephants. It has two female elephants, Ambika, 65, and Shanthi, 38, and a male, Kandula, 11, Shanthi’s son.

Bozie will go into quarantine for a minimum of 30 days once she arrives at the zoo, officials said. Afterward, she will be gradually introduced to the other elephants.

“It’s exciting to partner with Baton Rouge,” said Senior Curator Brandie Smith, “because we both want the best for Bozie.

“It’s a great first step to grow our small elephant herd. We know that our staff and elephants will love Bozie, and I’m certain that Washingtonians will welcome her, too.”

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